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ST. DINGAN'S BONES
THE VANGUARD PRESS
Copyright, ©1958, by Julian Callender
No portion of this book may be
reprinted in any form without the
written permission of the publisher,
except by a reviewer who may wish
to quote brief passages in connection
with a review for a newspaper or
magazine. Manufactured in the
United States of America.
Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 58-9250
Dedicated to my old friend
The Rt. Reverend Monsignor John Barton
ST. DINGAN'S BONES
ballydingan is referred to by Canon Sheehy in his
little book, Rambles in the West (Skeffington and Hodges,
1872), as "that jewel in the crown of Connemara"; and
by Sister St. Aloysius Gonzaga, known also as the Nun
of Newry (a High Anglican lady of good family and
considerable means who seceded towards the end of
the nineteenth century, and later became a Christian
Scientist), in one of her published letters in the follow-
"Were the climate but a little more salubrious,
Ballydingan would rival Athens and Rome as the
Mecca of those who travel in search of beauty
It is possible that the Nun of Newry had not visited
Athens and Rome when the weather of those two havens
of beauty and peace was at its worst, but certainly the
climate of Connemara is not the most salubrious in
Europe. North-westerly gales may rage coldly for
weeks on end, and cottage doors, wide open at every
opportunity, remain resolutely shut; south-westerly
squalls may drench without warning those hardy
enough to be out of doors, and send the lobster fisher-
men racing for port: but on the rare days of fine
weather there is an unearthly beauty which compen-
sates for all that has gone, a beauty of blue sky and
opalescent sea, of white clouds careening over the
Maam Turks and the Twelve Pins, of green boggy
fields overlaid with rocks and stones, and pools of wine-
dark water. It is impossible to describe that beauty in
more than general terms, for it is a matter of light and
shade that changes hour by hour, indeed minute by
minute, so that old Fr. Hennessy who said Mass for the
Friary at Ballydingan would remain standing gazing
from the harbour wall, oblivious of his breviary,
oblivious of passers-by, oblivious even of the Angelus
bell ringing from the nearby campanile of St. Joseph's.
Ballydingan, the town or village of St. Dingan, takes
its name from a humble saint of the fifth century about
whom little is known except that for a short time he was
in the company of St. Brigid. His only earthly memorial
is, or was, a well in the dingle below what is now the
Protestant church of Holy Trinity, though the church
stands on a pre-Reformation foundation and the ori-
ginal church was most probably dedicated to the saint
from whom the village derives its name. The well was
so little regarded until recent events brought it back
into prominence that it had become choked with duck-
weed and watercress, and only the children of the
village knew with any certainty of its whereabouts.
Those who wished for holy water could get it with much
greater ease, and of a quality indubitably guaranteed
by Holy Church, simply by taking a small bottle to the
porch of the parish church, and so the well had fallen
into desuetude. The wonderful ferro-concrete basilica,
with its spire which can be seen from many miles away
across the bog, the pride and joy of Fr. Rooney, the
parish priest, is not dedicated to St. Dingan, but to
St. Joseph, the Patron and Protector of the Universal
The main part of the village consists of a single row
of buildings facing the sea and running uphill from the
church of St. Joseph at the bottom to the Guards
Barracks, which stands opposite the entrance to the
churchyard of Holy Trinity at the top. This church
also would be a conspicuous landmark (though St.
Joseph's spire, starting as it does with a considerable
disadvantage, is at least ten feet higher than the top of
the tower of Holy Trinity, if one counts the gilded cross
at the very tip), were it not for the splendid clump of
trees planted by Lord Roundstone, grandfather of the
present earl, some eighty years ago. From this point the
street turns away from the sea for a matter of a mile or
more and then, having crossed a small peninsula, re-
gains the shore and becomes the coast road to Clifden.
On its way out of Ballydingan it passes one rather
grand cottage set back about a hundred yards from the
road, which is the home of Mary Maconochie, the
Connemara poetess, when she is not in Dublin record-
ing for Radio Eireann; and a little later it skirts a high
stone wall pierced by an iron gate which surrounds the
Galway home of the Earl of Roundstone. In the other
direction the road meanders over the bog and beside
the sea until it drops down into Roundstone and so on
to Ballynahinch, once the home of Humanity Martin
and, in later years, of Ranjit Singh,whose considerable
wraith, fishing rod in hand, still haunts the Owenmore.
There are fifty-seven buildings in the main part of
Ballydingan, and it is more accurate to call them
buildings than houses because the majority of them
serve some specific purpose in addition to accommodat-
ing in their backrooms and upstairs the families of those
who own them. Of the fifty-seven, twenty-five are bars
where the traveller may refresh himself with guinness
from the barrel or the bottle, with Smithwick's ale, or
with various brands of Irish whisky ; and one bar, the
resort of the English or, as it would be more proper to
call them, the Anglo-Irish, has usually two brands of
Scotch besides, and a number of reputable sherries, and
during the summer has been known to display bottles
of Vermouth and Dubonnet. There are also eleven
shops, though five of these — two victuallers (or but-
chers), two grocers and a haberdasher, have already
been counted among the bars, for they possess, in the
rear of the premises, these stimulating adjuncts to the
sale of meat and merchandise, and many an old lady
from across the bog has found comfort in a glass of
porter while admiring the latest pinafore or petticoat,
or even more intimate garments newly arrived from
Galway or Dublin. There are also two hotels, both
with bars, and one of them selling groceries in addition.
Just outside the village on the Roundstone road is a
guest house recently bought by an English couple who
wished to have a bar as an amenity for their guests, but
their application for a licence was opposed in the
district court by the owners of the twenty-five other bars
on the very plausible ground that a twenty-sixth could
not but be redundant. Unlike their English counter-
parts the bars bear no other sign than the name of their
owner over the door, and this can be confusing as
several are owned by persons of the same name and
sometimes of the same family. For instance, three
brothers of the name of King have bars in the main
street, two of them next door to each other, and if you
wish to meet someone at King's Bar it is necessary to
be more specific and state whether you mean Sean,
Tomas or Seamus. Seamus is also one of the victuallers,
and to make it even more difficult, their mother, who
keeps the haberdashery, has the bar at the back of her
premises already mentioned.
The parish priest, the Very Reverend Fr. Rooney,
was born a little to the north in the county of Mayo.
He has been eleven times to the summit of Croagh
Patrick, though he admits that he does not think he will
ever again make the pilgrimage, for he is now just
turned sixty-three, and would not get very far without
his Ford Prefect. He is a benevolent, kindly, gentle
priest of the old school, growing rather stout but not
at all pompous, a great contrast to his curate, Fr.
O'Toole, who is thin and ascetic, and of the neo-
Jansenist persuasion now fostered in the seminaries of
Ireland. Fr. Rooney has even been known to lunch
with Mr. Freeman, the Protestant rector, not, it is true,
in the parish where such fraternization might be mis-
understood and perhaps cause scandal to the faithful
on both sides, but in the Great Southern Hotel at Gal-
way where they once met in the bar and discovered
that they had a shared addiction for the novels of
George Birmingham. Indeed, conversation at lunch
consisted almost exclusively of antiphonal renderings
from the master's work. On the other hand, Fr.
O'Toole, if he should meet Mr. Freeman in the street,
quickly concentrates still more deeply on his breviary
which he invariably carries, thus avoiding as far as
possible the salutations even of the faithful, for he con-
siders the traffic of the market place to be worldly, and
worldliness is only one remove from actual ungodliness.
Mr. Freeman, especially when in the layman's collar
and black tie which he sometimes affects, looks like a
retired major of Marines. He is a Cambridge man,
though born in Connemara where his father was rector
of Moyard, and something of a Modernist, inclining to
a symbolic interpretation of the Creeds, though he does
not reveal the fact to his congregation of seventeen who
are fundamentalist if anything, and certainly unthink-
ing; Protestantism being to them what Shinto is to the
Japanese. They prefer cosy sermons of not more than
ten minutes' duration, extolling the virtues of courage,
or patriotism, or sympathy as long as sympathy does
not require too practical a demonstration, for they are
English in origin and undemonstrative by nature,
especially when it might necessitate the putting of the
hand in the pocket or the production of a cheque book.
Mr. Freeman is a widower with one daughter, Belinda,
who is eighteen and has just left school.
Lord Roundstone is considered to be somewhat
eccentric, even in Connemara, though perhaps not
markedly so among his peers, for the Anglo-Irish
nobility have never been lacking in character. He had
become a convert to Rome, to the great disgust of his
father, while at Oxford, and had been able to reconcile
this with a profound admiration for Madame Blavatsky
and her pupil, Miss Annie Besant. Later still he had
come across the works of Ouspensky, and experienced a
profound admiration for the somewhat turgid meta-
physics of that writer and his master, Gurdjieff. Fr.
Rooney was content to let him read what he liked as
long as he was punctilious in the performance of his
religious duties, but he was a little taken aback one day
during the previous summer, which was exceptionally
fine, when Lord Roundstone, obviously completely
nude, waved to him from the top of the porte-cochere
where he was apparently sun-bathing. Fr. Rooney had
thought of consulting the canon at Clifden, but he had a
habit of procrastinating, having found that nearly all
problems if left alone solve themselves in the end, and
this proved for once fortunate, for a providential attack
of sciatica sent Lord Roundstone back to his tweeds.
Lord Roundstone was a bachelor, his heir presump-
tive being his nephew, William Shannon, who was also
his ward. William's father, an officer in the Brigade of
Guards, had been killed in Africa in 1943, and in the
same year his mother had died, her friends said of a
broken heart. William was a Protestant, like his father,
and one of Mr. Freeman's seventeen. He refused to sit
in solitary state in the Roundstone pew, and now sat
with Belinda and a girl called Patricia, daughter of a
retired English colonel and his wife who lived some
three miles out on the Clifden road. They called them-
selves the choir, which Patricia, who was not too nice in
her use of words, sometimes referred to as an "alibi".
One other person must be singled out for special
mention, for he has a part to play in this chronicle, and
that is the dispensary doctor, Dr. Neville. He is a
family man, with six children, and his great passion is
fishing, so he is content to live in a comfortable stone-
built house just a little below the presbytery, and to
minister to the not too complicated needs of the village
and the country around. He graduated at the Galway
College of the National University, and was once a
great player of Gaelic football, which has been des-
scribed as combining all the fouls of Association and
Rugby football into one glorious free-for-all.
Such was the village of Ballydingan on the shores of
Connemara in the late spring of 1956.
St. Brigid was honoured because she was Brigid's name
saint, and her special protectress, but St. Dingan be-
longed to all of them, and received votive sprays of
lupin and wild briars from the girls and such rectory
fruits as could be spared by Michael John and Martin
James, though Martin was a little too young to under-
stand why even the sourest of his gooseberries should be
left in St. Dingan's grotto, and often Brigid had to prise
open his chubby fist to extract the unwilling tribute.
Heaven rewards such devotion in the young in
various ways, and the Conneelly children were singled
out for an especial favour. On the feast of St. Joan of
Arc, which is the 30th of May and the eve of Corpus
Christi, just before sunset, they were vouchsafed a
vision of St. Brigid.
Miss Macardle had spent an hour that morning
telling them of the famous exploits of the Maid of
Orleans, and her dreadful fate at the hands of the re-
lentless English, for Miss Macardle was a fervent
Nationalist and anti-Partitionist, and rarely failed to
point an anti-English moral. In one way her talk on
St. Joan might be said to authenticate the apparition
to the Conneelly children, for, had they invented or
imagined it, it would surely have been a vision of St.
Joan or of Our Lady, who, so Miss Macardle had told
them, had appeared to Joan at Domremy, who would
have filled their imaginations.
The children had said the Angelus and then gone on
an expedition to Miss Maconochie's garden where they
were able to admire the flowers undisturbed, it being
well known that Miss Maconochie had taken the
morning bus for Galway en route for Dublin. As there
was no possibility of a surprise attack, for Miss Maco-
nochie's maid, old Bella Naughton, lived at the other
side of the village and was not inclined to works of
supererogation, they felt no need to pluck the flowers
in order to be able to enjoy them at greater leisure, and
only carried away the smallest spray of Dorothy
Perkins from a trellised archway for St. Dingan's grotto.
They had had their tea on returning home from
school, and supper would not be until something after
nine o'clock, when they would receive a cup of milk
and a piece of jam and bread. Michael John and
Martin began to feel that a visit to the rectory garden
might be productive of inner sustenance spiced with the
possibility of adventure, for only the previous day Mrs.
Nee, Mr. Freeman's cook-housekeeper, had threatened
to skin them all alive if she found them near the straw-
berry bed, a threat they deemed her quite capable of
carrying out. It is true that the strawberries were still
small, white and hard, but the sun had been shining
most of the day, and it was just possible that a few had
begun to turn, for the Irish are great believers in un-
Their best way to the rectory garden was up to the
top of the dingle, over the wall, and across the corner of
the churchyard to the low wall of the garden, which
was easily surmounted. Owing to the configuration of
the ground it was not possible to scale the wall of the
kitchen garden which formed the boundary of the
dingle, and was a continuation of the churchyard wall.
The ground falling away very steeply here made the
wall impossibly high. Even the churchyard wall was a
considerable obstacle to young Martin James, who had
to be hoisted up by the combined efforts of Brigid and
Bernadette, with a helping hand from Michael John
astride the top.
Brigid, being the oldest and the tallest, was the first
to climb the wall and reconnoitre the terrain. And as
her head came cautiously over the top of the wall she
uttered a little cry of surprise. For standing against the
western wall of the church was a tall lady in blue out-
lined by a haze of golden light, which might have been
the glow of the setting sun, or a light flowing from a
more supernatural region than that of the solar system.
Her right hand was raised and pointing, and Brigid
could hear her speaking in a low and musical voice.
"What is it now?" asked Bernadette.
"Is it Mr. Freeman?" asked Michael John.
"Me upl" urged Martin James imperatively.
"It's the blessed St. Brigid, sure it is," said Brigid,
Bernadette hoisted herself up to the top of the wall,
and was just in time to see "the lady in blue" before she
disappeared, whether into thin air or round the corner
of the gable it was impossible to decide.
"Why wouldn't it be the Blessed Virgin herself?"
"Because she hadn't a crown on," said Brigid, with
Michael John and Teresa had both gained the top of
the wall, and Martin James set up a wail from the
grassy bank below. Brigid jumped down, and with
Bernadette pulling and herself pushing he was soon
hoisted to the top of the wall.
"Pretty lady," he said, and they all looked across to
the church where, for a brief moment, they saw the
tall figure in blue surrounded by a golden light. Her
right hand pointed to the west wall of the church, and
just before she vanished for the second time they all
heard her speak.
"What was she after saying?" Michael John asked.
Brigid began to intone:
"St. Dingarfs bones
Lie under these stones."
Miss Macardle had on one occasion told them a
wonderful story of a piece of bone preserved in a locket
whose efficacy had been long forgotten, and how it had
effected a marvellous cure when it had been discovered
that the locket was really a reliquary and the bone was
a relic of St. Golman. The story had had a particular
appeal for Brigid. She had recently had a tooth ex-
tracted at the dispensary, and it had struck her forcibly
that a saint's bone, worn in a locket, would be a far
pleasanter prophylactic against the toothache.
"Bones!" exclaimed Martin James. His mind was
running on gooseberries, and even the possibility of
But the jingle appealed to the other children, and
they sang in chorus:
"St. Dingan's bones
Lie under these stones."
It may occasion some surprise that the children
should accept the apparition in such a matter of fact
way. But they were Irish children, and not only Irish
children but children of Connemara. They knew all
about visions and apparitions, which were, if not a
commonplace, yet an accepted link between heaven
and earth, vouchsafed to the pure in heart and the
young in spirit.
"Gome on," said Brigid. "We must see if we can find
a bone. If we found a bone of St. Dingan, it could do
The strawberries forgotten by all except Martin
James, they made their way across to the west gable
of the church. Usually they did not linger in the
churchyard and never played there, for though it was
not, for them, a sacred place like the ground surround-
ing St. Joseph's, with its great stone Calvary fronting
the road, yet it held about it a faint aura of taboo.
When they got to the west wall Brigid crossed herself,
for it was here the apparition had stood, and the others
followed her example. They all said the Hail Mary, and
then set about the practical task of finding bones.
Bernadette was almost instantly successful, and held
up in triumph a small spatula of bone, yellowed with
age, which might have been identified by a competent
ornithologist, but for the children was undoubtedly a
veritable relic of St. Dingan.
Brigid knew instinctively what ought to be done, for
she was a good Christian child and well instructed in
the Faith. She was the only one who possessed a
handkerchief, a little piece of lilac coloured cambric
embroidered in one corner with tiny pink roses which
had been given her at Christmas, and which she carried
about with her proudly though never putting it to its
intended and vulgar use. This she laid flat on the
ground, received the bone reverently from Bernadette,
placed it in the centre of the handkerchief, and then she
told them all to kneel, and led them in another Hail
Mary. Finally she wrapped up the bone in the handker-
chief, and they all set off for home.
"This will cure grannie, surely," said Brigid.
Only Michael John and Martin James cast one
long, lingering look towards the rectory garden. The
strawberries would have to wait until the morrow.
When old Mrs. Conneelly turned up at the firrt Mass
of Corpus Christi the following morning at nine o'clock,
there were many people in the village who thought that
it was they who were seeing a vision. Mrs. Conneelly
had been given up for dead many a month ago, and
although the wake was delayed, it had been eagerly
anticipated by many of her old cronies over glasses of
porter in Mrs. King's, and by little groups gossiping
in the hushed tones they always affected in Doyle's
or Egan's grocery stores.
"Lord bless us and save us, and how did you get here,
Mrs. Conneelly was nothing loath to tell her story.
Before the Corpus Christi procession at noon it had
spread throughout the village, and after the procession
it was carried as far as Roundstone and Clifden and
even to Cashel.
The children had come in the previous evening and
told their story. They described St. Brigid, "the blue
lady of the golden light", and how she had pointed
them to St. Dingan's bones. Then they had produced
the bone, decently wrapped in Brigid's handkerchief,
and old Mrs. Conneelly had asked to hold it in her
hand. Almost immediately, she said, she had felt the
power coming into her legs, and within a few minutes
she had insisted on getting up from her bed and coming
to sit by the fire. And as Mrs. Festus Joyce remarked,
she looked good enough now to be thinking of taking
Indeed, old Mrs. Conneelly had taken on a new lease
of life. To remain permanently in bed, matriarch at
one remove from the hurly-burly of affairs, from
running after the cows, and feeding the hens, and
baking soda bread, and boiling endless cauldrons of
potatoes, from fetching turf from the stack on the bog,
and washing Martin James and John Patrick, and
mending the clothes that always seemed to be falling
to pieces on them, had seemed at first a delightful
solution to the problem of living. And the habit had
grown until after a month or two Mrs. Conneelly had
had little desire to get up. She enjoyed the visits of her
old cronies, and the respect she was afforded as one
about to embark on her last and longest journey, and
most of all she enjoyed the fact that her daughter-in-
law, a chit of a thing from Sligo her son had met while
in camp with the F.C.A., and who thought herself a
cut above the folk of Connemara, had to bring her all
her meals and, as the phrase went, wait on her hand and
But the children's story, the apparition of St. Brigid
and the finding of St. Dingan's bone, had suddenly
made her conscious of the green and lovely world
beyond her bedroom walls that she had, perhaps, too
hastily abandoned. Like Persephone she came back
from the underworld and, in spite of the rain which
threatened, and which was to cause the abandonment
of most of the Corpus Christi processions throughout
Ireland, she found it a wonderful place to be back in.
At Mass she was paid almost as much attention as the
Liturgy itself, and Fr. O'Toole faltered in a
Dominus vobiscum when, in one of his brisk turns to the
congregation, his eye fell on old Mrs. Conneelly in the
second row on the left.
The thrilling narrative of how she had held St.
Dingan's bone and felt the power coming into her legs
was everywhere repeated. And immediately after the
procession, just as it was beginning to rain in earnest,
Fr. Rooney called at the Conneelly cottage.
The Church has never encouraged private revela-
tions. Public revelation, which came to an end when
the last Apostle died on Patmos, is addressed to the
whole human race, and from this Treasury are pro-
mulgated all the dogmas, belief in which is necessary
to salvation. But private revelation is addressed to
individuals or to groups of individuals for their own
particular welfare and sometimes, as in the visions of
St. Joan, for the welfare of others. Belief in them is
never of obligation, whether they receive the approval
of the Church or not, and nothing revealed by them
becomes a part of Catholic dogma. Usually they are
only vouchsafed to souls in an advanced state of
holiness, but as the Reverend Fr. Poulain of the
Society of Jesus has said, "God has at times manifested
Himself to simple souls of quite ordinary virtue in
order to found a pilgrimage or to suggest some useful
Fr. Rooney had no great wish for a pilgrimage to
be founded in Ballydingan. After all, the locality was
in little need of spiritual stimulants, for there were
Croagh Patrick, Knock and Lough Derg all within
a few hours' journey. He was perfectly happy to be
the parish priest of an obscure if lovely little backwater
in the wilds of Connemara. He had everything he
needed: a splendid church, a comfortable presbytery,
an exemplary housekeeper, a zealous curate, a re-
sponsive congregation, and to wind up the day he had
his turf fire, his books, his pipe and his glass of whisky.
He asked for nothing more. And now all this was
threatened, for if the Conneelly children really had
seen an apparition, or were able to convince the
villagers that they had, then all hell, as Fr. Rooney
phrased it to himself, would be let loose in the locality.
And another feature of the affair which caused him
considerable misgiving was that the apparition was
said to have appeared in the grounds of the Protestant
church, an oecumenical proceeding which the bishop
would not like at all.
"Good day to you, Michael," said Fr. Rooney.
"Good day, Father," said Michael. He sounded a
little apprehensive. In the cottage behind him there
was a hushed silence.
"Could I have a word with Brigid?"
"They are out playing in the field, Father."
Three minutes earlier they had all been in the house
listening to old Mrs. Conneelly, who was describing, to
a room packed with old women from away over the
bog, how the power had come into her legs. The sight
of Fr. Rooney coming up the boreen had sent the
children flying out of the back door, all except John
Patrick, who now toddled out past his father, though
keeping a tight hold on his father's trouser leg, and
said solemnly to Fr. Rooney:
"I hear she is," said Fr. Rooney. "Perhaps I
could have a word with her, Michael."
Seeing there was no help for it, Michael retreated
into the house, and all the old ladies stood up as Fr.
Rooney came in after him.
"Sit down, sit down," said Fr. Rooney. He had
taken off his black hat and was shaking the rainwater
on to the concrete floor. "I hear you were at the early
Mass this morning, Mrs. Conneelly. Now isn't that a
wonderful thing after I've been bringing you the Sacra-
ment for the last two years."
"Oh, Father, I owe it all to the blessed St. Brigid
and to St. Dingan himself."
"St. Dingan," said Fr. Rooney. "And what made
you be thinking of St. Dingan?"
Mrs. Conneelly needed no further prompting. She
recounted the events of the previous evening with a
wealth of picturesque detail.
"But St. Dingan," said Fr. Rooney, when she had
at last come to an end. "So little is known of St. Dingan."
"But wouldn't he have a great well of mercy to
refresh us with?" asked Mrs. Conneelly. "Because he
has had it waiting all these years and no one has had
the good of it."
"It may be, it may be," said Fr. Rooney. It
was on just these grounds that St. Jude suddenly
achieved popularity not many years ago. "But can
we be sure that it was St. Dingan?"
"But who else, Father? Isn't it one of St. Dingan's
very bones that worked the miracle on me?"
Mrs. Conneelly's old cronies all nodded their assent.
"Ah, yes, the bone," said Fr. Rooney. "Can I
see it, please?"
It was at this moment that the back door, which
also opened directly into the living-room, was pushed
open, and Brigid came in, propelled from the rear by
"Brigid," said Fr. Rooney, "where is this bone you
found last night?"
"The bone, Father," said Brigid. "I'll get it, sure."
And she disappeared into one of the bedrooms to
reappear a moment later with a small box ornamented
with shells. Lifting the lid she brought to view a small
lilac-coloured handkerchief, and having carefully
unwrapped this she displayed to Fr. Rooney's
somewhat dubious gaze a small spatula of yellowed
Fr. Rooney could not have told you what he was
expecting. In one sense he was not expecting or hoping
for anything. The incursion of the supernatural into
the quiet, ordinary life of Ballydingan was not something
he would greatly welcome. But he could not be wholly
sceptical. No Catholic priest could be. Consciously
or unconsciously the bias is on the other side. He
stretched out an exploratory finger and touched the
Instantly, he jumped quite visibly into the air. The
old ladies who had been watching him with wide open
if rheumy eyes and parted lips crossed themselves in
unison, and one of them, as if to make assurance
doubly sure, made the sign against the Evil Eye as
Fr. Rooney had experienced something in the
nature of an electric shock. It may have been wholly
psychological, a triggering off of almost unconscious
anticipation. But certainly Fr. Rooney experienced
"The Lord bless us and save us," he said in a startled
voice, becoming for a brief moment a small boy again
on an upland farm in the wilds of Co. Mayo.
"Lord bless us and save us," echoed the old crones
round the walls, crossing themselves vigorously. It was
the best entertainment they had had for years, since,
in fact, old man Doyle, now gone to his rest, had chased
his wife down the village street with a chopper, and
she in her nightdress.
Fr. Rooney suddenly recollected his position as
"Brigid," he said, "put your coat on and walk down
to the presbytery with me. And Bernadette had better
come, too. Perhaps you would call her, Michael."
Outside the rain had become a steady downpour.
Fr. Rooney said nothing to the children as they
walked along the boreen, past the Guards Barracks, and
down the village street which was deserted except for a
sorry-looking sheepdog and an old donkey belonging
to Brendan Flaherty which was standing outside the
post office. When they got to the presbytery Fr.
Rooney asked his housekeeper to take their coats into
the kitchen to dry them by the range, and marched the
children into the sitting-room, where a small turf
fire was burning. The children sat side by side on the
black horsehair sofa across the window, and Fr.
Rooney sat in his big leather armchair and regarded
"Now, Brigid," he said, "tell me just what happened
On the previous day a depressed looking middle-aged
man had arrived at Mr. and Mrs. Primby's guest house.
He arrived in a cloud of alcoholic remorse, and had
chosen the guest house because it was down in the
hotel guide supplied by the Irish Tourist Board as
having no licence. He gave his name as Joe Thompson,
a name which meant nothing to Mr. and Mrs. Primby,
but which would have been recognized immediately
in an area roughly bounded by the Thames Embank-
ment to the south, the Law Courts and Ludgate Circus
to the west and east, and an indeterminate area of
High Holborn to the north. For Joe Thompson was the
star reporter of the Excess News Agency.
It is of Joe Thompson that the famous story of the
Mountjoy exhumation is told wherever a cub reporter
can be found who has not yet heard it. Wagging tongues
and anonymous letters had at last moved the Home
Secretary to issue an exhumation order, and this had
been arranged to take place late at night in the middle
of November in the remote Lincolnshire churchyard
where the remains of Mrs. Mountjoy had been decently
if somewhat hurriedly interred on a wet afternoon the
At eight o'clock in the evening Mr. Thompson came
through on the telephone from Lincolnshire to the
office of the Excess News Agency and dictated his
story to a stenographer with all the romantic colouring
for which he was famous. The moon was rising, its
eerie light fitfully illuminating the canvas screen round
the grave behind which could be heard the clink of
spades on loose gravel, and grim shadows were cast
ever and anon by the light of flickering storm lanterns.
At last the coffin had been raised, and the ghastly
burden carried furtively past the little Gothic church
where Mrs. Mountjoy had been married so many years
before, and where still later had been recited over her
mortal part the solemn Office for the Burial of the Dead.
The story certainly made the most of the material
Some two hours later Mr. Thompson had come
"You know that Mountjoy story, ole man?" he had
said, his speech noticeably thicker, but still intelligible.
"It's all right, isn't it?" asked an anxious sub-editor,
who had sent it out on the teleprinters an hour before.
" 'Sail right, ole man," said Mr. Thompson.
" 'Squite all right. But it isn't going to happen now
Three or four times a year Mr. Thompson abjured
the demon alcohol for ever, and took a week's holiday
in some remote spot where he endeavoured to restore
his ravaged tissues. Unfortunately it always seemed to
to be a case of reader pour mieux sauter, and the cele-
brations on his return to Fleet Street, which lasted for
nearly twenty-four hours ending up in a Covent
Garden hostelry at six o'clock on the following morn-
ing, tended to nullify any benefit he might have
obtained from the previous week's abstention.
On the morning of Corpus Christi, Mr. Thompson
had so far recovered from the crossing (his regime was
not scheduled to begin until he actually got to the
guest house), as to be able to take a breakfast which
consisted of three cups of tea and six aspirin, and by
lunchtime he was almost completely conscious of his
surroundings and even ventured on a plate of soup.
Mr. and Mrs. Primby took their meals with their
guests, the only other one at this time being a painter
from Dublin whose name was Tim Hogan. It was thus
that Mr. Thompson gradually became aware of the
story of St. Dingan's bone, and the miraculous return
of Mrs. Conneelly from what ought to have been her
Mr. Thompson brooded on this story during the
afternoon, lying on "his bed, while his insides battled
with Mrs. Primby 's soup, and just after four o'clock
he rose purposively and, refusing the cup of tea which
Mrs. Primby fluttered out to offer him as he came
downstairs, put on his old macintosh and his battered
Anthony Eden homburg, and set out for the Conneelly
cottage. He had no difficulty in finding it. In spite of
the rain there was a sizeable crowd peering over the
wall of the Protestant churchyard, and little groups of
men and women coming and going on the boreen
which ran between the rectory and Miss Maconochie's
Events were moving fast; indeed they had already
got out of Fr. Rooney's tentative efforts to control
them. Brigid and Bernadette had come back from the
presbytery strictly enjoined to silence until such time
as Fr. Rooney could get a direction from the
bishop. He had wondered what to do about the bone.
If he insisted on taking charge of it,it would seem to the
village to set a seal of authenticity on it and, indeed,
if it were a veritable relic of the village's eponymous
saint, it ought to be received and deposited in the
church with appropriate solemnity. Father Rooney
compromised by charging Brigid to keep the bone
safely out of the way until the bishop's wishes were
On getting back to the cottage, Brigid found that
this course of action had become quite impossible. A
second miracle had occurred within half an hour of her
leaving for the presbytery, and now the bone in its
box of shell was enshrined on the top of the press in the
living-room with the little red Kelly lamp, which
usually stood on a wall bracket in front of the oleograph
of the Sacred Heartburning in front of it.
Old Poric Mannion, whose right arm had been
useless since he had had it mangled in a stone-crushing
machine while working for the Council nearly ten years
before, had come up and asked to hold the bone. His
useless right hand, which he kept always in his jacket
pocket, he hauled out with his left, and held palm
upwards. Old Mrs. Gonneelly, a Sibyl as ancient
almost as the earth of Connemara itself, took the bone
from the box and placed it in his hand. As it touched
his palm his fingers began to close over it.
"Glory be to God!" he shouted. "It's the use has
come into me hand."
And now in Seamus King's bar, over his ninth pint of
stout (none of which he had had to pay for after the
first), he was recounting over and over again to an
eager audience which never tired of the story how St.
Dingan's bone had put the use back into his withered
hand and arm, and over and over again he demon-
strated how his fingers could now open and close and
soon would be strong enough, with the help of God, to
lift a glass of porter.
Mr. Thompson had taken down Mrs. Conneelly's
story, and then had heard from Brigid and Bernadette,
on their return from the presbytery, how they had
seen the apparition of St. Brigid the previous evening
and discovered the bone. Now he was in Seamus
King's bar, and his stomach had found peace over a
third double Powers. It was no time, he told himself,
to fuss about his health when a great story was break-
ing. His best work had always been done on whisky.
He called for drinks all round, and took another look
at Poric's arm.
There was a chorus of "Good lucks!" round the bar.
Seamus King was wondering whether he might be able
to borrow another barrel from his brother next door.
"And you had no use in your hand at all?" Mr.
Thompson asked Poric.
"Never a bit," said Poric. "And I was in the
hospital for three months, and it was in the plaster for
all the rest of the year, and no good to me at all when
it came out of it. I could never do anything with it.
And old Mrs. Conneelly put the blessed bone on to
me hand, and there me fingers began to move."
"It was as useless as an old gate with broken hinges,"
said a man on Mr. Thompson's left.
"Didn't his brother have to dress him for years?"
asked another man on his right.
"He helped to put the coat on me this morning,"
"It's a very wonderful thing," said Mr. Thompson.
He felt kindly towards the whole world. "Fill them up,"
he said to Seamus. "It's a great story." His heart
overflowed with benevolence, and his eyes watered as
he thought what a beautiful world it was he was living
in. He pushed his glass across the counter. "Fill it
up," he said. "Fill them all up."
And at six o'clock, as Fr. Rooney was laboriously
compiling a letter to the bishop, Mr. Thompson was
in the post office putting through a priority call to
MIRACLE OF ST. DUNGAN'S BONES
screamed The Daily Wire next morning.
A CHILD SHALL SEE THEM
The Announcer told its readers, while The Manchester
Sentinel gave the story under the headline:
CURIOUS HAPPENINGS IN CONNEMARA
Even the Irish papers carried the story, though in a
rather more restrained fashion, and they did not con-
vey the impression, as did the English papers, that
something had happened entirely outside the course
of nature. It was no different in kind, they implied,
from the news that President Sean T. O'Ceallaigh had
on the same day received the Provincial Superior of the
Oblate Order, and Corpus Christi processions had been
abandoned because of the rain in most of the towns of
Ireland. They had been able to gather little information
other than that supplied by the Excess News Agency, as
the Ballydingan exchange closed at eight o'clock when
Miss Hegarty locked up and went home, leaving an
emergency line open to the Guards Barracks. Sergeant
Donovan had informed the first three reporters who got
through that he had no information, though admitting
cautiously on being pressed that he had heard a Mrs.
Conneelly had got up and gone to Mass after being
in bed more than two years. When he had got rid of
the third caller he asked the all-night exchange at
Clifden to accept no more calls for Ballydingan unless
it was a police emergency, and just after eleven he went
The newspapers arrived in Ballydingan by CLE.
lorry between 10.45 an d noon every day except Sunday.
On this Friday morning Mr. Thompson was in Duffy's
Bar, which was just across from the shop that sold the
papers, impatiently awaiting them from soon after
half past ten. He had wakened up with what, in any
other person, would have been the father and mother
of a headache, but which he accepted as a matter of
routine, and an indication that he was back in harness.
It was nothing that a cup of tea, a few aspirin, and an
early snifter could not put right, and he was gratified
to find that Duffy's Bar was open when he reached it,
not having yet grasped the elasticity of the Republican
When the papers at last arrived and he discovered
that they consisted of The Press, The Independent, and five
ordered copies of The Irish Times, he was indignant.
Where, he asked, could he get the Mail and the
Express, the Wire and the Sentinel?
"It's the English papers you'd be after?" asked Mrs.
Riley, who ran the paper shop, and also sold a variety
of other goods including bread, cigarettes and sausages.
"Well, now, you might get them in Galway."
"And how do I get to Galway?" asked Mr. Thompson
"There's a five o'clock bus," said Mrs. Riley help-
fully. "But you wouldn't be able to come back here
until next Wednesday."
"Oh my God!" exclaimed Mr. Thompson, entirely
forgetting that he had chosen Ballydingan especially
for its remoteness. "What a place to live in."
"There will be a daily bus from the 24th of June,"
said Mrs. Riley, still trying to be helpful.
Mr. Thompson gave a strangled cry.
"And this is still May," he said. "I must have a
taxi. Is there such a thing to be had?"
"There's Doyle's Car Hire, but he's gone into Clifden
and there's Vaughan up the street, and Paddy Ken-
nedy. Paddy Kennedy is outside the post office just
Distraught, Mr. Thompson rushed to the post office,
and seizing the person he took to be Mr. Kennedy by
the arm, demanded to be transported instantly to the
City of Galway.
"I'm afraid," said Mr. Freeman, who was wearing
his black tie, "I'm not going into Galway today or I
would have been delighted to take you. That is if
Belinda and her friends left any room for another
passenger, which they rarely do."
"I thought you had a taxi," said Mr. Thompson.
"Ah, no, my dear fellow, it's Paddy Kennedy you're
wanting. He's passing the time of day with Miss
Hegarty in the post office. I'm sure he'll be delighted
to run you into Galway. Are you wanting to catch the
"I want to buy some newspapers," said Mr.
"Mrs. Kelly could let you have The Press and The
Independent. And when the season gets going she'll
have a few spare copies of The Irish Times. There isn't
much demand for it out here until the visitors arrive.
I could let you have my copy this afternoon, my dear
fellow, if that would be any good to you."
"No, no. I want the English papers."
"They aren't worth going to Gal way for, I assure
you," said Mr. Freeman seriously. "They're what
they call Irish editions, and they have very little more
news in them than the real Irish papers. And it isn't
news of any importance. But this is Paddy Kennedy if
you want him."
Leaving Mr. Thompson to make his arrangements
with Paddy Kennedy, Mr. Freeman continued down
the street to Mrs. Kelly's to collect his own paper. In
the doorway he met Fr. Rooney coming out.
"Good morning," Fr. Rooney said to Mr. Free-
man. He looked upset. "I should like a word with
you." He drew him out to the middle of the road where
they could not be overheard by the customers in the
shop. "Have you seen all the nonsense this wretched
fellow, Thompson, is putting in the papers about
"I haven't seen my paper yet," said Mr. Freeman.
"I was just on my way to collect it."
"You heard about this bone which is supposed to be
a relic of St. Dingan?"
"Not a thing. You mean to say there are some bones
of St. Dingan? I always thought he was a myth, like
the Firbolgs and Eremon and Eber, and those sort of
"Certainly not," said Fr. Rooney. "He lived for
a time in St. Brigid's monastery at Kildare, and then
came out here and built a little cell. Probably just
below your churchyard."
"Did he now? And why has he suddenly got himself
into the papers?"
"You know the Conneelly children?"
"I know them well," said Mr. Freeman. "Too well.
I sometimes wonder why they don't all suffer per-
manently from colic."
"They claim to have seen an apparition of St. Brigid
in your churchyard," said Fr. Rooney a little
defiantly. He was well aware that Mr. Freeman did
not believe in apparitions. "And she told them that
St. Dingan's bones are there. They have a little rhyme
which they say she taught them." And Fr. Rooney,
like all true Gaels appreciative of verse, if a little
undiscriminating, repeated the lines:
"St. DingarCs bones
Lie under these stones."
"Rather doggerel," said Mr. Freeman critically.
"An apparition or vision is always adapted to the
capacity of the recipient," said Fr. Rooney stiffly.
"But the point is that the children claim to have found
a bone, and already it seems to have worked apparently
miraculous cures. Old Mrs. Conneelly, the children's
grandmother, got up and came to Mass yesterday
morning," he added.
This really shook Mr. Freeman.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed. "That old harridan
about again. If she's opened my gate and driven her
cows on to my lawn once she's done it a thousand times.
I do call it unkind of St. Dingan or St. Brigid or whoever
it was to bring her out into our midst again when she'd
been safely in bed these two years or more. The sooner
we get her back in bed the better."
"And then there's Poric Mannion," said Fr.
Rooney. "The poor fellow who had his arm caught in
the stone-crusher. He went up to Mrs. Conneelly's
last night and was allowed to hold this bone, and now
he's using his hand again."
"A civil-spoken, quiet man," said Mr. Freeman.
"I don't mind his getting the use of his hand back at
all. But it's annoying about Mrs. Conneelly's legs. I
don't know what St. Dingan could have been thinking
about. And you say this all began in my churchyard?"
"Your church is on a pre-Reformation site," said
Fr. Rooney. "The original church was, in all
probability, dedicated to St. Dingan. It's quite possible
he was buried somewhere in the chancel."
"Under the flagstones," said Mr. Freeman. "They're
part of the old church, I believe. I suppose they would
be the stones your apparition referred to. I hope,"
he added anxiously, "the Conneelly children haven't
been digging up the chancel. I wouldn't put it past
"They have not," said Fr. Rooney. "They found
the bone in the churchyard."
"Which means it belongs to wj-," Mr. Freeman
"That is arguable," said Fr. Rooney. "The pre-
Reformation church was in communion with the
"If I remember rightly," said Mr. Freeman, "the
early Celtic Church looked to the Greeks and the Copts
rather than to Rome. Didn't they even keep their
festivals on Greek dates and not on the Roman ones?"
"I'll argue the history with ye another day," said
Fr. Rooney. "The question is, what are we going
"Well, you certainly can't dig my chancel up without
a faculty, and I can't see you applying for one to our
diocesan Chancellor. I say let poor old Dingan rest
"But that's just what this fellow, Thompson, isn't
going to let him do. He's raising an absolute hornet's
nest about our ears."
Mr. Thompson was at that moment passing through
Recess. At least he would have passed through if his
eye had not fallen on a large enamel sign at the side of
the road which read Guinness for Sale.
"Stop!" he cried. "Stop! I suppose they sell whisky
"They sell anything," said his driver.
"Come and join me," said Mr. Thompson, clamber-
ing out of the car. He felt better now he was on his way
to Galway. The taxi would go down as expenses.
"I'll wait here," said Paddy Kennedy. "I'm a
Mr. Thompson looked at him suspiciously. This
word to describe an Irish teetotaller was new to him.
"Are there any more places of refreshment on the
way?" he asked.
"Loads of them," said Pat Kennedy. "But they're
spaced out a bit, now."
"Then I'll only have a quick one," said Mr. Thomp-
son, and disappeared into the bar.
When Fr. Rooney got back to the presbytery he
found an agitated Miss McHugh awaiting him by the
"Oh, Father," she said, "the Lord Bishop himself
has been on the telephone, and will you speak to him
as soon as you come in."
"The Lord Bishop!" exclaimed Fr. Rooney. "Oh
As far as he could remember, the bishop had never
spoken to him on the telephone before.
Miss Hegarty had him put through in a remarkably
short space of time, and the bishop must have been
sitting with the telephone at his elbow, for he answered
immediately in person. Fr. Rooney announced who
"You asked me to telephone you, my Lord."
"I did indeed, Father. I was wondering what-
ever is happening out at Ballydingan. Already
I've had five telephone calls from London about
"From London, my Lord?"
"These newspaper fellows. They tell me an extra-
ordinary story about someone finding a skeleton, and
working miracles with it. Practically brought an old
woman back from the dead, so I was told. What
skeleton is it?"
"It isn't a skeleton at all, my Lord. It's a very small
piece of bone."
"But whose bone is it?" asked his lordship, with just
a hint of impatience in his voice.
"It is -thought to be a relic of St. Dingan, my Lord."
"St. Dingan, St. Dingan? I thought I knew all my
Irish saints. St. Declan I know, and St. Kieran, and
St. Columbcille. But, of course, your village must take
its name from him. I shall have to look him up. What I
want to know is, why has this bone suddenly turned
up, and what are you doing with it?"
"Perhaps I should have telephoned you, my Lord,"
said Fr. Rooney. "I didn't like to trouble your lord-
ship on the telephone, and I had no idea there
would be all this — this nonsense in the newspapers.
I wrote to your lordship last night but the post only
leaves the village at mid-day today."
"I shall get it by the afternoon post, I've no doubt.
But tell me about it now."
"Some children claim to have seen an apparition of
St. Brigid on the eve of Corpus Christi, and they say
she directed them to the place where they found this
bone. I'm very much afraid, my Lord," and here
Fr. Rooney' s voice faltered a little, "she appeared by
the west wall of the Protestant church, and it was
there the bone was found."
"Well, it was our church once. That only goes to
prove it. I don't think it matters at all." The bishop
gave a chuckle. "I don't think your Mr. Freeman
will like it at all. But we shall have to hold an inquiry
into this apparition. We can't have unauthorized
apparitions and unauthorized bones."
:< Certainly not, my Lord."
"That would be simply superstition, and Mr.
Freeman would have a right to cavil at it. A genuine
relic would be quite another matter. Have you in-
spected this bone?"
"I have, my Lord. And I may say it seems to give
off a — it's difficult to describe, my Lord — a sort of
* 'Indeed." The bishop was silent for a moment.
"I think you'd better take charge of it. Don't put it
in the church, of course, though you might lock it up
in the sacristy. I'd better convene a Commission as
soon as possible. Tomorrow if it can be arranged. If
not, Monday. Let me see, I'll ask Fr. Driscoll, he's
a great theologian, and your neighbour from Clad-
daraw, Canon Donoghue. And you will make the third."
"Yes, my Lord."
"What time is your second Mass tomorrow?"
"Nine o'clock, my Lord."
"I think the best thing would be to get these children
to attend the Mass, and then give them some breakfast
in the presbytery. Have them at the sacristy at ten-
thirty, or perhaps we'd better say eleven. Impress
them with the solemnity of the occasion, but don't
frighten them. Just tell them to be good Catholic
children and to tell the truth. I'll telephone you again
when I've made sure the others can come tomorrow."
"Yes, my Lord."
"Oh, and, Father, who is your local doctor?"
"Dr. Neville is the dispensary doctor, my Lord."
"A sound man?"
"A very good man, my Lord."
"Well, ask him privately his opinion of these people
who claim to have had these miracles worked on them.
Medical opinion, of course. And specially ask him to
examine them today, if possible, and let you have a
"I will, my Lord."
"As their parish priest, would you say they were
honest, decent people?"
"Oh, yes, my Lord. Both of them have always been
most regular in performing their religious duties. At
least, Mrs. Conneelly was until she became bedridden."
"Well, that's something, certainly," said the bishop.
"I only wish these newspaper fellows hadn't got hold
of it. They don't want to increase devotion, they're
only out for a sensation. How did the rain affect you
"It held off until after the Procession, my Lord."
"I'm glad to hear it. I'm afraid we have had to
postpone ours until Sunday. Well, I'll let you know if
Fr. Driscoll and Canon Donoghue can come over
tomorrow, and if not, we'll have to try to get them on
And with that the bishop rang off. He was a kindly
man, and knew with what dismay Fr. Rooney must
be viewing this irruption into the quiet tenor of his days.
Father Rooney had not yet had his breakfast, for he
generally said the second Mass, and then read his
breviary in the vestry before going home. This morn-
ing the Mass had been at ten o'clock, and he had gone
along to collect his newspaper before going back to the
presbytery. Unfortunately his appetite had been
"I'll just have a cup of tea," he said to Miss McHugh,
who was fluttering round him like a very old hen that
has just had the surprise of her life by suddenly hatching
a brood of chickens.
"Oh, Father, I've fried you two eggs, and I've some
lovely fishcakes made out of a tin of salmon."
They were interrupted by the telephone bell.
"Hold on, Father," said Miss Hegarty's voice as
Fr. Rooney lifted the receiver, and then a man's voice
came on the wire.
"Is that Mr. Rooney, the Vicar of Ballydingan?"
"I suppose it is," said Fr. Rooney. "I'm the
parish priest, if that is who you are wanting."
"This is The Daily Wire speaking from London," said
the voice importantly. "I hear you have a St. Duncan
who has been working miracles in the parish. Could
you tell me about him, please?"
"St. Dingan," said Fr. Rooney.
"Dingan." Fr. Rooney spelt it for him. "He was
a Celtic saint of the fifth century, and retired to this
village for a little peace and quiet in the time of St.
"Fifth century!" exclaimed the voice. "Say, that's
"It was certainly a long time before the English
came here," said Fr. Rooney with relish. He was begin-
ning to feel better.
"Is it true that you have his skeleton preserved in
"It is not," said Fr. Rooney. Something urged him
to pass on the baby, though that is hardly how he
would have phrased it to himself. "He's in Mr. Free-
man's church, if he's anywhere, the Protestant rector.
His mortal part, that is. His immortal part is in
"That's very interesting," said the voice. "And is
this Mr. Freeman the custodian of these bones?"
"For the moment he is," said Fr. Rooney. Rashly he
added, "I believe we could claim them, but there would
probably have to be a case in the High Court."
"That's wonderful. Is this Mr. Freeman on the
"He is. Ballydingan one-four."
"Thank you very much. Tell me, have there been
any more miracles since yesterday?"
"There have not," said Fr. Rooney. "At least," he
added, for he was a truthful man, "if there have,
nobody has told me about them yet. And it isn't
correct to call them miracles until the Church has
investigated all the circumstances and come to a
decision about them."
But The Daily Wire had rung off and was already
asking Irish Services for Ballydingan 14.
"I think I will have some breakfast," said Fr.
Rooney, whom this conversation had unaccountably
restored to his usual good humour. "What silly fellows
some of these English are."
He would have been horrified if he could have had a
pre-vision of the headlines in the English newspapers
of the morrow.
"The English are honest enough," pronounced
Miss McHugh, remembering six months in Birmingham
a quarter of a century before, "but they have no
Mr. Freeman was discussing the matter of St. Dingan
with Belinda in the morning room of the rectory. There
was only a very restrained paragraph in The Irish Times
in which it was said that news agency messages reported
the finding of a relic of St. Dingan, the patron saint of
the village of Ballydingan in Co. Galway, and it was
asserted that various phenomena had been associated
with it including a number of alleged cures.
"It's our bone," said Belinda indignantly. "The
Conneelly children had no right to take it from our
"It was certainly disastrous they tried it out on their
grandmother," said her father. "We can only hope the
effect wears off pretty soon."
"Do you think it really is a bone of St. Dingan?"
"I should say almost certainly it isn't. But I haven't
seen it. And I don't suppose I should be any the wiser
if I did see it."
"I think you ought to go up to the Conneelly' s and
claim it," said Belinda.
"Good heavens, no!" exclaimed Mr. Freeman. "I
have no wish whatever to set up as a witch doctor."
"But it's not fair that other people should claim our
"Fr. Rooney was arguing that St. Dingan be-
longed to them, but I pointed out the early Celtic
Church was certainly not Roman. If you remember
your early history, the Celtic Church in England and
Wales had a fearful row with the Augustine when he
went over in 597. And that was a hundred years after
Patrick's time. They didn't cut their hair in the right
way as prescribed by Rome, and they kept Easter on a
different Sunday. And they didn't believe in giving a
lot of power to the bishops. They kept them shut up
in monasteries, very much like a Queen Bee in a hive.
Sensible chaps," added Mr. Freeman.
"But you ought to do something, Daddy," said
Belinda urgently. "It's not right to let Fr. Rooney get
away with it."
"I should think poor old Rooney is praying hard the
whole thing will soon be dropped. It won't be very
nice for him if they start pilgrimages here, and all
those hobbledehoy armies with banners and sodality
pins in their lapels. Some priests might welcome it,
but not Fr. Rooney. He's quite happy with Bally-
dingan as it is, and so am I." Mr. Freeman shuddered.
"They'd turn the place into a sort of holy Blackpool.
I should apply for another job if anything like that
happened. Life wouldn't be worth living here."
"Oh no, Daddy."
"Oh, but I would. I wouldn't stay here to see the
place ruined. Everybody selling coloured postcards of
the vision, and mementoes of St. Dingan, and specially
blessed medallions and rosaries. You simply can't
imagine what it would be like."
It was at this moment that the telephone bell rang.
The instrument was on a table in the hall, and Mr.
Freeman went out to answer it.
"Hello, Miss Hegarty. How are you this morn-
ing? What? A call from London? It must be my
sister, but I can't imagine what she can be want-
There was a clicking noise followed by a buzzing, and
then a voice said:
"The London office of The Daily Wire here. Is that
"You've got it wrong. I'm Mr. Freeman. You must
want Fr. Rooney."
"No, no. I've just spoken to him. Are you the rector
of Bally dingan?"
"I'm the Church of Ireland incumbent, yes."
"We understand you are the custodian of a
skeleton or part of a skeleton of a St. Dingan which
has been performing marvellous cures. Is that cor-
"No, it's not at all correct. I've got nothing to do
with St. Dingan's skeleton, or his bone either, if it is
his bone. If I did have it I'd see it was quickly and
"You don't approve of these people being cured
"Come now," said Mr. Freeman, "that's rather like
asking me if I've stopped beating my wife."
"I don't object to people being healed, but I wish
they weren't quite so superstitious about it. There is a
ministry of healing committed to the Church, but I
don't think it was meant to be exercised through
charms and relics and things like that."
"That's very interesting, Mr. Freeman. Am I to
take it that this bone was dug up without your
"It wasn't dug up at all as far as I know. It was
found by some little demons— some little children -in
"We hear that the Roman Catholic padre is going to
sue you in the High Court for the return of this St.
"Is he now?" said Mr. Freeman. "I'd gladly make
him a present of it if I had it available, but I'm afraid
the bishop would object. Our bishop, that is, not
"There are two bishops?" inquired the voice. Plainly
the man was getting a little out of his depth.
"Don't you know the story of the two padres, Roman
Catholic and Church of Ireland, who met during the
war in the front line? And the Church of Ireland padre
said, 'Ah, well, Father, we are both serving the same
Master. You in your way and I in His.' They have a
bishop and we have a bishop."
"I see," said the other. Plainly he didn't see at all.
"Then you will oppose the return of this skeleton to the
"If there are any remains of St. Dingan in my church,
and I've no reason to believe there are, then they are
most probably buried under the floor of the chancel.
I should certainly object to my church being dug up to
make a Roman holiday. In any case, if St. Dingan's
bones were buried under my chancel, I think they
ought to be allowed to remain there in peace."
"Then we can quote you as saying you are opposed to
these bones being dug up?"
"If it's of any interest to anyone, you certainly can.
But I can't see it's of all that importance. After all,
poor old Dingan's bones, if they are there, must have
been there for the last fifteen hundred years."
"Fifteen hundred years! Your church goes back
fifteen hundred years?"
' 'No, of course it doesn't," said Mr. Freeman, who
was getting a little irritable. "It was a ruin in the
seventeenth century, was rebuilt, and not many years
afterwards burnt down. It was rebuilt about a hundred
years ago. But the site's the same."
"And you don't consider these bones an asset to
"No, I don't," said Mr. Freeman, pulling a face at
Belinda who was looking out of the morning-room
doorway. "I don't approve of people going to church
just to see someone's bones. You might as well put one
of poor old Dingan's boots in a casket and gape at that.
I'm not saying he wore boots, mind you. I'm just
giving it as an illustration. He probably wore pam-
pooties if he wore anything on his feet at all."
"You have one of St. Dingan's boots?"
"Oh dear," said Mr. Freeman. "I really must go.
I'm very busy this morning, you must excuse me."
And he rang off. "The man's a cretin," he said to his
daughter. "Or do I mean a moron? But perhaps the
line was bad, though I could hear him clearly enough
"What was it all about?"
"It was a reporter on some London newspaper. He
says Fr. Rooney is going to sue me for the custody of
St. Dingan's bones. Let him try, that's all."
"I've never heard such cheek!" exclaimed Belinda
"My dear girl, I don't suppose for one moment
Fr. Rooney is going to do anything of the sort. He'd
come and tell me first if he were thinking of doing
such a thing. But these newspaper fellows have to
exaggerate so. It isn't a story as they call it unless they
alter it out of all recognition."
"Poor Fr. Rooney," said Belinda, who thought him
rather a pet. "It's much worse for him when you
come to think of it, because he has to take it all
seriously." She glanced at the morning-room clock.
"I must be off. I'm having lunch with William."
If Fr. Rooney had gone straight to the Conneelly's
he might have forestalled another miracle. But he went
first to the dispensary.
Dr. Neville was busy tying flies. He had been glad to
see the rain because the spring had been very dry, and
there were no fish running. He observed Fr. Rooney
through the window and went to the door himself.
"Good morning, Father," he said. "I hope it isn't
professionally you've come to see me."
"Good morning, John. I haven't come about myself.
My health is good, thank God. I wanted to consult
you about old Mrs. Conneelly and Poric Mannion."
"Come in," said Dr. Neville. "I heard you had been
taking the bread out of my mouth."
"I wasn't responsible, I can assure you," said Fr.
Rooney, when they were settled in the front room.
"But I've had the bishop on the telephone."
"That's bad," said Dr. Neville sympathetically.
"Oh, he was quite friendly. But as he says, we shall
have to make an inquiry. We can't allow unauthorized
miracles, you know, and a Commission is coming out
tomorrow. These Conneelly children, now. Would you
say they were at all inclined to be hysterical?"
"I would not," said Dr. Neville. "Quite the reverse.
They are just the little divils they ought to be at that
"So I thought. The school is Fr. O'Toole's province,
and I haven't seen very much of them. But from what
I have seen I should agree with you."
"Will you have a drop of something, Father?"
"No, thank you, John. I never take anything on
Fridays. But old Mrs. Conneelly, now. How ill was
Dr. Neville considered for a moment.
"She'd kept to her bed for two and a half years,"
he said. "I must confess I was very surprised to see her
at Mass yesterday. I should have expected considerable
muscular atrophy. But, of course, she may have been
getting up and walking about in her bedroom without
anyone being the wiser. I don't say she has, mind you,
but I've never had occasion to examine her thoroughly.
There's never been anything very much the matter
with her general health, except a touch of bronchitis."
"And Poric Mannion?"
"He had a hundred per cent disability in his right
arm ten years ago. The nerves and tendons were
completely severed. It was a wonder his arm hadn't to
be amputated. It would have been if he hadn't
objected so vigorously."
"Then you think that something definitely happened
in his case?"
"I'm not sceptical, Father, but there could be
another explanation. Nerves have been known to join
up again after a number of years. I'm not saying that's
what happened, but just that it could happen. We
don't even know what it is makes a broken bone knit
up. There doesn't seem any reason why it should."
"Handling this bone brought things to a head,
perhaps? Well, John, the grace of God would be in it
"Certainly it would, Father."
"I should be glad if you would examine them both
today, and let me know what conclusions you come to."
"I will, Father."
"We are sustained by a perpetual miracle all our
lives if we did but realize it," said Fr. Rooney. He
got up. "I wouldn't like this place to be altered, John,"
he said. "It isn't very different today from what it was
in St. Dingan's time."
"There wouldn't be quite so many bars then," said
"Every cabin would make its own poteen in those
days," said Fr. Rooney with a smile. "There were
no Customs and Excise in the days of good King
About half an hour before this, Mrs. Burke had gone up
the path to the Conneellys' cottage with her son, Brendan.
She had been working in London in 1939 when the war
broke out, and in 1 940 had married a sergeant in the
Irish Guards. He had been killed in 1944, in the early
days of the invasion of France, and three months later
Brendan had been born. The house in which Mrs.
Burke was lodging in the Fulham road had been almost
demolished by a flying bomb, and though Mrs. Burke
had only received superficial injuries, her son had
arrived six weeks before his time. It was some months
before his mother noticed that he did not seem very
lively, and he was more than a year old before she
realized he was dumb. He would lie looking up at the
ceiling, or sit with his gaze fixed straight ahead of him,
and though he did not appear to be deaf, for he would
do what he was told and winced at the slightest noise,
he never uttered a murmur. In Ballydingan, where
Mrs. Burke returned to her father's cottage and was
living on her small pension from the British Govern-
ment, he was said to be amada?i, which has the same
general connotation as the Yorkshire expression, gorm-
less. When the men were working on the road, Brendan
would stand for hours watching them, and often they
would bring him a few sweets, or share their lunch
Mrs. Burke, like everyone else in the village, had
heard of St. Dingan's bone, and with a desperate hope
in her heart she had decided to take Brendan to Mrs.
Conneelly's. With her right hand she held Brendan's
left, and in her other hand she clutched an old leather
purse in which was the sum of one pound seventeen
shillings, all the money she had at that time in the
Mrs. Conneelly had been revolving in her mind the
question of the use of the bone. The more miracles that
it wrought, the less each one would be valued, and her
own, the first and what might have been the unique
miracle, would be thrust into the background and for-
gotten. Already she was dividing the honours with
Poric Mannion, who was displaying his arm to admir-
ing crowds in all the bars of Ballydingan. She was also
vaguely afraid that the bone might possess just so much
power and no more, and once that power was used up
it would be no good to her or to anyone else. Even her
own legs might go back on her.
When she saw Mrs. Burke in the doorway, across
whose eager, desperate face fear and hope alternated
like cloud and sunlight over the bog, she hadn't the
heart to say no. If her legs went back on her they went
back on her.
"Welcome," she said.
"God save all here," said Mrs. Burke, who had long
ago sloughed off the three years she had washed-up in a
London teashop, and had reverted to the polite usages
of the farther West. "God bless us all."
The house seemed crowded with people, for there
were two friends of old Mrs. Conneelly's sitting by the
fireside, and the five children home from school, and
young Mrs. Conneelly doing some washing in a corner
by the back door with John Patrick holding tight to her
skirts, and Michael at the table in the window eating
his dinner, a sheepdog at his feet watching his every
mouthful, and at least three hens picking round the
Mrs. Burke dropped her voice. "I was wondering,"
she said to old Mrs. Conneelly, "whether Brendan
could have a hold of the holy bone."
"He can, surely," said Mrs. Conneelly, and if charity
covers a multitude of sins, she worked her passage into
heaven at that moment.
Michael stopped eating. His wife stopped washing.
Everyone in the room watched with an air of expect-
ancy as old Mrs. Conneelly lifted the shell box rever-
ently from the top of the press.
"Kneel down, Brendan," said Mrs. Burke.
Obediently Brendan knelt down on the concrete
"Holy Mother of God, help him," said Mrs. Burke.
"Help my poor Brendan."
Old Mrs. Conneelly opened the box, and held the
bone out in front of him.
"Kiss it, Brendan," said Mrs. Burke. The urgency
in her voice must have rung round the Celestial City
Brendan bent forward and did as he was told. Then
he looked up at his mother.
" bone," he said.
The adjective, not to be found in even the most un-
inhibited dictionary, must have been treasured up in
his memory from long sessions with the roadmen.
Old Mrs. Conneelly dropped the box.
Instantly Bob, the sheepdog, darted forward, seized
the box, and disappeared through the open front door.
" dog," said Brendan.
For a moment there was consternation. Then the
children all ran out after the dog, followed by their
father. The old ladies by the fireside began rocking
themselves to and fro, keening loudly as they did so.
Mrs. Burke alone took no notice of what was going
on around her. She dropped to her knees and gathered
Brendan into her arms.
"My precious boy," she said. "My precious, precious
"Dinner," said Brendan, slowly and distinctly.
Mrs. Burke, in order to make sure of closing every
loophole through which a malignant fate might seek to
outwit her, had insisted that her son should fast from
bedtime the previous evening.
It was at this instant that Fr. Rooney came up the
path to the cottage. For a moment, hearing the keen-
ing, he was under the impression that old Mrs. Con-
neelly must have suddenly died. He was reassured
when the old woman herself appeared in the doorway.
"Oh, Father," she cried. "The dog has run away
with the bone."
Belinda found William waiting for her at Lord Round-
stone's drive gate.
"Hullo, William," she said, jumping off her bicycle.
"Hullo, Linda." Her father was the only person who
gave her her full name. "Leave your bike here."
Belinda propped her bicycle against one of the gate-
posts. Few people, except tinkers, ever steal anything
in Ireland, though they may borrow this or that item
for indefinite periods, and often without the owners'
knowledge or consent. Bicycles, however, are not
among such items. They are too easily traced by the
"What's all this about St. Dingan's bone?" William
asked as they walked up to the house. "Uncle saw some
rot about it in The Irish Times"
"Those frightful Conneelly children who are always
after our gooseberries say they saw a vision on Wednes-
day night, and they found a bone which they claim is
"I can remember raiding your gooseberries once,"
said William reminiscently. "It was ten years ago, just
before you came here. I must have been eight."
"I wouldn't mind if they only did it occasionally,"
said Belinda. "But they're at it all the time, and we
have to pick them long before they're ripe or there
wouldn't be any left to pick."
"Living a mile outside the village has its advantages.
But tell me about St. Dingan. I never knew before
there was such a person."
Belinda told him all she had gathered from her
father, and how old Mrs. Conneelly had got up and
gone to Mass, and how Poric Mannion had the use
back in his hand.
"They all say they are miracles," she ended up.
"I don't know about old Mrs. Conneelly," said
William. "I expect she could have got up at any time
if she'd really wanted to. But Poric's arm was all
withered. He once showed it to me in Duffy's Bar, and
he seemed quite proud of it."
"The ghastly thing is, if many more of these miracles
happen,people will simply flock here. And then Daddy
says he'll leave."
"If it got really bad I'm sure he would. We've got to
do something about it."
William stopped abruptly in the middle of the drive.
He was very fond of Belinda, and although he was
going to Cambridge in October, the holidays at Bally-
dingan without her would be a desolation. It didn't
bear thinking about.
"What can we do?" he asked.
"I think we'd better get Patricia, and have a council
"We'll go out and get her this afternoon," said
William. "As soon as lunch is over."
They found Lord Roundstone sitting on a camp
stool under the porte-cochere mending a wheelbarrow.
Beside him was a large box of tools. He had' the wheel-
barrow upside down and was trying to replace one of
the struts that held the axle. When he saw Belinda he
got up and greeted her warmly, though they had last
met not twenty-four hours before at tea.
"I hear they're seeing visions in your father's church-
yard," he said. "I don't know what my father would
have had to say about it. He wouldn't have liked it at
"I don't think Daddy does," said Belinda. "He says
it will turn Ballydingan into a holy Blackpool."
"God forbid," said Lord Roundstone. "Though I
hear old Mrs. Conneelly and that fellow, Mannion,
have benefited by it. Upon my word, I'm seriously
thinking of trying the bone out on my sciatica."
"I don't think that's at all the right spirit in which to
approach St. Dingan," said William.
"Nonsense, my boy," said his uncle. "As I see it, it's
a purely commercial transaction, though perhaps com-
mercial is hardly the word I want. There is St. Dingan
with a reservoir of good works to be tapped, and here
am I wanting to tap it. Which is done by faith. And
the medium he uses is this bone of his."
"I wish those Conneelly children had never found
the bone," said Belinda.
"Oh, come," said Lord Roundstone. "It's done
some good to Mrs. Conneelly, and to Poric Mannion."
"I suppose it has," said Belinda. "But we don't want
hundreds of people swarming round Ballydingan and
"Ah, well," said Lord Roundstone. "I think I shall
try it on my sciatica." He took Belinda by the arm.
"Come along and hear my latest recording. It's Miss
Maconochie reciting one of her poems. It's quite the
best I've done yet."
Electricity (the E.S.B. as it is known in Ireland) had
come to Ballydingan at last in the early spring, and
among other things, Lord Roundstone had invested
in a tape-recorder. He collected the voices of his friends,
and things that appealed to him on the radio. They
went into the library, and Lord Roundstone switched
on the machine.
"I don't know the woman," he said. "I cribbed this
from Radio Eireann last night."
The rich contralto of the Connemara poetess
boomed through the library. Her heart was a white
gull, and then it was suddenly a boat borne out on a
dark tide, and then it was a silvery fish far down in the
cool caverns of the sea.
"Yeats and soda-water," said Lord Roundstone.
"There was an even funnier one before that, but I
didn't get the machine going in time."
An elderly parlour maid put her head in at the door
and announced that lunch was ready.
"I haven't got your father yet," said Lord Round-
stone to Belinda. "I shall have to get him to do a talk
on St. Dingan."
Lunch consisted for Lord Roundstone of nut cutlets,
and for William and Belinda of real lamb cutlets.
Lord Roundstone had been converted to vegetarianism
in his theosophical period, and had gone on with it,
although occasionally he would eat fish. But as he liked
fish, he never ate it on Fridays. After the cutlets they
had rhubarb tart and cream.
When lunch was over William got out his car, which
was a second-hand baby Fiat, and they set off along the
Clifden road to Colonel Martin's, Patricia's father.
Patricia was what Lord Roundstone, whose vocabu-
lary was a little old-fashioned, called a blue-stocking.
She was tall and rather thin, and had a round, serious
face made to look still more serious by reason of a pair
of horn-rimmed spectacles. She always wore unbecom-
ing clothes, and never went anywhere, even to a lunch
or tea engagement, without a book. When she went
into Clifden shopping with her mother, she would sit
in the lounge of the Bay Hotel reading avidly until her
mother had finished and was ready to go home. She
had also very decided views about religion, being what
in Ireland would be thought of as High Church. She
even thought Mr. Freeman ought to turn to the east
when he recited the Creed, a proceeding which would
have scandalized the rest of his congregation.
Though the morning had been fine, a high wind had
sprung up and it had begun to rain again, so they held
their conference in the Martins' potting shed at the
bottom of the garden. Belinda and Patricia sat on the
edge of the bench on which the potting was done, and
William sat on the wheelbarrow, which was a rather
more substantial one than that of Lord Roundstone.
Patricia had heard nothing about the vision or the
miracles, not having been into the village for two
days, and not having looked at the morning's paper,
so they had to begin at the beginning and tell her the
"So you see/' said Belinda, in conclusion, "if we
can't put a stop to it, Daddy says he will leave and get
"Oh, dear," said Patricia, who would miss her almost
as much as would William. "We can't let that happen.
But what can we do?"
"Couldn't we get hold of this bone somehow, and
then bury it?" suggested William.
"I should say it's almost impossible," said Belinda.
"There are such a lot of Conneellys. Michael John
sleeps on the sofa in the sitting-room, and I think
Martin James has a bed in there, too."
"Couldn't your father borrow it, and then say it was
his, and refuse to give it back?" asked Patricia.
"There'd be an awful row if he did," said Belinda.
"They'd probably come and burn the rectory down to
show their disapproval."
"Yes, I suppose it means quite a lot to them," said
Patricia. "They're not rational beings like us. And if
you ask me, most of them are thinking of what they
are going to get out of it. The hotels, and the bars, and
the shops would all love the crowds to pour in."
"It's awful to think of," said Belinda feelingly.
"I've been wondering," said William. "Couldn't we
get up a vision ourselves that would tell them to let
St. Dingan rest in peace?"
"You mean one of us dress up?" asked Patricia
"Well, yes, something like that."
"It might be done." Patricia wrinkled up her nose,
a sure sign she was thinking deeply. "It would have
to be nearly dark. How late are the Conneelly children
"They're in the dingle below the churchyard at all
hours," said Belinda. "But sunset isn't till about half
"Some evenings are darker than others," William
"Yes, but then it's likely to be wet," said Belinda,
"and they wouldn't stay long in the dingle if it was
"It's worth trying," said William.
"We would have to have a verse they could easily
remember," said Patricia. "A minatory sort of verse."
She shut her eyes and then said:
"Replace the bone
Under the stone."
Belinda clapped her hands.
"Why shouldn't William dress up as St. Dingan?
All he wants is a beard and a sort of smock tied round
the middle with a rope. And then he could say:
1 Replace my bone
Under the stone.'' "
"Oh, I say!" exclaimed William. "I'm not much
good at amateur theatricals."
"It's a much better idea," said Patricia. "Of course
it must be William. Because, you see, if the Conneelly
children really did see a vision, then we should pro-
bably not look a bit like the original one, and they'd
be suspicious. And besides, I'm blind as a bat without
my glasses, and I'm almost sure they didn't wear
spectacles in St. Brigid's time. You simply will have to
be St. Dingan, William, and there's a lovely red beard
in that dressing-up trunk you have at home."
There was consternation throughout Ballydingan when
it was heard that the bone had been lost, after having
conferred on Brendan Burke the gift of speech.
Mrs. Burke had taken her son home to a long-
anticipated dinner of boiled pollock after trying in
vain to leave the one pound seventeen shillings she
had brought with her on the Conneelly's table among
the potato skins. But the Irish are not a mercenary
people, except over the buying and selling of cattle,
and old Mrs. Conneelly utterly refused to accept it.
Mrs. Burke finally compromised by giving Brigid a
shilling to buy some sweeties, when she passed her,
still searching for the bone, and she put some further
coins into the box in front of the statue of the Blessed
Virgin when she called in at St. Joseph's on the way
Fr. Rooney had gone back to the presbytery not
at all sure whether to be relieved or sorry that the
bone had disappeared. It would not affect the Commis-
sion which was to sit on the morrow, because its main
task would be to establish whether or not the Con-
neelly children had seen a genuine apparition, but, of
course, if the apparition had led to the discovery of the
bone, and had been vouchsafed for that very purpose,
and it was established that the bone had worked
miracles, then it was a relevant factor to be taken into
account by the assessors, and he ought to have been
able to produce it.
Brigid Conneelly had at last found the shell box on
the bog which stretched away towards the hills at the
back of the house, and, a little farther on, her lilac-
coloured handkerchief. But of the bone there was no
trace. It seemed highly possible, though no one cared
to voice the suggestion, which appeared to border on
the sacrilegious, that Bob had eaten it.
Around five o'clock, Mr. Thompson arrived back
from Galway, and on hearing about Brendan Burke
and the loss of the bone set off immediately for Mrs.
Burke's cottage. Mrs. Conneelly he would interview
later. Unfortunately he found Mrs. Burke wholly
non-co-operative, unlike the wives and sweethearts of
murderers and other Press heroes who, in England,
were only too eager usually to get their pictures in the
paper. Actually the poor woman was afraid that the
powers-that-be, which the whole course of her life
had led her to think of as capricious and even malig-
nant, might yet get the better of her if she gave them
the least chance.
When Mr. Thompson, in rather a bad temper, got
back to the village he was surprised to see a whole fleet
of cars stretching from Egan's Hotel, almost opposite
St. Joseph's, to Duffy's Bar, half-way up the hill. If
his knowledge had extended to such matters he would
have realized that they were all carrying Dublin
registration plates. However, from the noise emanating
from Egan's Bar, which sounded like a Spanish bull-ring
at the end of a corrida, he made the right deduction. Fleet
Street had arrived in force in the village of Ballydingan.
There were shouts of acclamation as he entered the bar.
"Good old Joe!" "Hiya, Thompson!" "What are
you having, Joe?"
There was Barry of the Press, and Murgatroyd of the
Wire, and Boothby of The Sun, and Smith of Picture
Weekly, and Simmonds of Worldwide, and two photo-
graphers he only knew by sight.
"How did you get here?" Thompson asked of Barry,
who was nearest to him. "Double Scotch, please."
"He hasn't any Scotch, you'll have to have Irish.
It's all right with water. We flew over this morning."
"There are no damn trains," said Smith, "so we've
all had to hire cars. They gave us a cheer as we went
through Athlone; I think they took Simmonds for the
"And now Mr. Egan here says this bone has been
lost," said Murgatroyd. "What have you been doing
with it, old boy?"
"I've only just got back from Galway myself," said
Thompson. "You can't get newspapers in this place.
But the bone worked a miracle before it was lost.
A boy who had been dumb since birth. His mother
wouldn't let me speak to him, but I'm told he has said
quite a few words this afternoon."
"Who's this?" everyone demanded of Mr. Egan, who
told them, and also where Mrs. Burke lived. There
was a wild stampede out of the bar, a whirring of self-
starters and a crashing of gears.
When Mrs. Burke saw seven purposeful men coming
up the boreen — they had left their cars in the main
road, thinking discretion the better part of valour —
she shut and bolted the front door of the cottage. It
was a whitewashed cottage with a thatched roof, one
of the few remaining in Ballydingan. The back door
was already shut to keep the donkey out, but she went
across and locked that as well, and put a chair against
it to make sure. She had overlooked the fact that
Brendan, who was in his bedroom, could open his
window. When he heard the knocking on the door
he opened it and put his head out. Instantly the
reporters gathered round him.
"Are you the little boy who couldn't speak?" asked
one of them.
Brendan nodded vigorously.
"And can you speak now?"
Brendan nodded again.
"It's a miracle!" exclaimed Murgatroyd of the Wire.
"Let him say something," said Barry. "Be quiet, you
fellows." He held out a two-shilling piece. "Would
you like this?" he asked.
Brendan nodded more vigorously than ever.
"Well, for God's sake say something," Barry urged
" bone!" said Brendan distinctly.
"A ruddy miracle!" said Barry. "What a voca-
Mrs. Burke appeared beside her son at the window.
"Go away," she said. "Please go away."
"Just let us take a photograph, mother," said Smith
of Picture Weekly. "It won't hurt him."
Already the shutter of one camera had clicked, and
before Mrs. Burke could pull Brendan in, Smith had
secured a second photograph. After milling round the
cottage and considerably startling the donkey, which
was lying across the path and which two of them fell
over, they all returned to the village. Some went up to
Holy Trinity churchyard, and some went off to inter-
view old Mrs. Gonneelly. Only Barry went back into
Egan's Bar and ordered a double Irish. Mr. Thompson
had gone across to the post office to do some tele-
"This St. Dingan, now," said Mr. Egan, handing
over the whisky. "He belongs to us."
"To you!" exclaimed Barry.
"To the Catholics."
"Oh, I see."
"He was only buried up in the Protestant church
because it was the Catholic church then, surely."
"You mean," said Barry, who had not yet grasped
the whole story, having only very cursorily glanced
through the news agency report, "there are still some
remains of this St. Dingan buried in the Protestant
"So it is said," Mr. Egan agreed cautiously.
"Well, what are you worrying about, then? Some of
you want to go up and claim him. If one bit of a bone
has worked these miracles, what couldn't a whole ruddy
skeleton do?" The reporter of The Daily Press could
hardly restrain his excitement. "What a story," he said.
"Boy, what a story!"
Mr. Egan was one of those who would welcome the
idea of the whole world flocking into Ballydingan. He
had seven beds to let and three more if the family
turned out temporarily into the cowshed which had a
good, dry loft. Already three of the reporters had
booked in for the week-end, and the price of their drinks
had come to more than he had taken during the whole
of the week so far, even though it had included a Holy
"They are our bones, surely," he said again.
"You must organize some of the boys," said Barry.
"Where is everybody?"
"They're all on the bog," said Mr. Egan.
"On the bog!" Mr. Barry nearly knocked his glass
over. At the school he had attended in his formative
years this had been the current euphemism for a
different place altogether. "All of them?"
"Cutting the turf," said Mr. Egan. "They'll be back
around eight or nine."
"Turf is peat, I suppose?" queried Barry, anxious to
get his local colour right. "How does it burn?"
"It burns well enough," said Mr. Egan. "There's
some on the fire behind you."
Barry turned to see a thin trickle of smoke coming
from what looked like the sort of stuff his wife bought
in the late autumn to plant bulbs in.
"Wonderful," he said. It made him feel suddenly
cold just to see it. "But what do you do when you want
a real fire?"
"You get a good enough blaze with dry sods," said
Mr. Egan. "Those are from the year before last, and
they've never dried out properly."
At this moment two men came into the bar rather
furtively, as Irishmen are somewhat prone to do in the
hours of daylight, as if drinking were an activity hover-
ing on the brink of at least venial sin.
"How do you do," Barry said.
"Good night," said one of them. The other remained
"What will you have?"
"Pint o' draught," said the one who had already
spoken, showing a little more animation. His com-
panion nodded agreement.
"Mr. Egan and I were discussing this bone,"
said Barry. "The loss is a great tragedy for the
"The old woman should have given it to the priest,"
said the man who had already spoken.
"But I understand the greater part of St. Dingan is
still buried in the Protestant church," said Mr. Barry.
"So the bone could be replaced. Have another pint.
It's on the Press"
"You the Irish Press?" asked Mr. Egan.
"No, no, the London Daily Press."
"I take the Irish Press " said Mr. Egan. "I can't say
I know the London one."
"Good heavens! We have a circulation of over three
"My son in England sends us the News of the World
now and then. But sometimes the Customs take it when
they are hard up for a read, bad luck to them."
There was a sudden diversion. A car was heard to
draw up outside, and a* moment later a uniformed
chauffeur put his head in at the door.
"Is this the best hotel?" he asked.
"For what?" asked Barry. "The drinks are good,
but there's no Scotch."
Pushing past the chauffeur, a large lady looking very
like a pouter pigeon stepped into the bar. She was
wearing a picture hat with an ostrich feather curled
round it, an enormous silver fox fur over a beige
coloured summer coat, and she had six coils of pearls
under her three chins.
"My name is Mrs. John K. Shotter and I come from
Milwaukee, Wisconsin," she said. "I'm doing a tour
and I heard about this St. Dingan, so we've driven up
from Parknasilla today."
Mr. Barry was wearing a rather battered trilby
which he had not yet removed from his head since he
had arrived. Now he swept it off and said:
"Will you have a drink with me, madam? I represent
the London Press."
Mrs. Shotter glanced a little dubiously round the
bar, and even more dubiously at Mr. Barry's two
companions, whose appearance was not enhanced by
the fact that they looked as if they were trying to make
up their minds whether to grow beards or to remain
"Is this the best hotel?" she asked.
"There's Vaughan's up the street," said Mr. Egan,
"but two of his children have measles."
"Have you hot and cold water in every room?"
asked Mrs. Shotter.
"We have not," said Mr. Egan. "You'd have to be
going to Ballynahinch or to the Bay Hotel at Clifden."
He came round from behind the bar with a wooden
chair. "Would you care to sit down, madam?"
"And what about that drink?" asked Mr. Barry.
Mrs. Shotter sat down, looking very opulent and
rather out of place.
"Have they Bourbon?" she asked.
"They have not," said Mr. Barry, who was fast
acquiring the local idiom. "But the Gold Label is good."
"I'll have it on the rocks," said Mrs. Shotter.
"I don't think there's any ice."
But Mr. Egan was able to rise to the occasion.
"They have some in the ice-cream machine next
door," he said. "If you will wait a moment I will get
some." He went out and very quickly reappeared with
a small block of ice which he proceeded to break under
the counter with the mallet he used for broaching the
guinness casks. Mrs. Shotter took a sip of her drink and
nodded approvingly. The chauffeur had gone back to
"I've had a pain in my back for the last five years,"
she said. "They've treated me for everything, from
lumbago to slipped discs. I've been in hospitals and
clinics, I've had ultra violet and infra red, and I've had
more than a dozen different diets. Nothing does me
any good. So I thought I'd try this St. Dingan's bone.
I suppose you don't have to be a Catholic for it to take
effect, do you?"
"I don't know," said Mr. Barry. "But I'm afraid
you won't be able to make the experiment. The bone
has been lost."
"Lost! Now isn't that too bad. Land's sakes, what
happened? How could you lose a thing like that?"
"It seems a dog ran away with it, just after it had
done another miracle."
"Well, isn't that just too bad, and after I've come all
the way from Parknasilla."
"But," said Mr. Barry, "the rest of the old boy's
skeleton, which should be every bit as efficacious, if not
more so, is buried in the Protestant church."
"Say," said Mrs. Shotter. "What are we waiting
mrs. primby was a firm believer in the occult, that is, in
all forms of occultism that came to her notice. It may
be that she felt in her rather muddled way that the
phenomenal world was such a very peculiar place, the
reality behind the phenomena must be even more
peculiar, and peculiar methods of exploration and
research were more likely to arrive at the truth than the
more orthodox approaches of logic and orthodoxy. As
she was wont to observe to Mr. Primby, "There's
more in things than meets the eye," and another of her
favourite expressions was, "There's never smoke with-
out a fire," though it was a metaphysical or celestial
fire to which she was alluding.
Mr. Primby had been a clerk in a shipping office in
the West End of London, travelling backwards and
forwards from Ealing where he had a small villa resi-
dence with two rooms, a kitchen and a scullery down-
stairs, and three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.
He had been nearly fifty when the war broke out and
so had escaped the call-up, and at sixty he had retired.
He enjoyed a game of bowls with a local club, he had
an allotment in which he grew all his own vegetables
and which was a model of its kind, and he attended,
somewhat irregularly, a nearby Methodist church. His
wife belonged to a bridge circle which met twice a week
in the afternoon and enjoyed local gossip almost as
much as the bridge, and she attended the Spiritualist
church every Sunday, a weekly seance on Wednesdays
and a Healing Circle on Fridays, except during August
when the medium, a Mrs. Hume, recuperated her
psychic powers at Ramsgate. It would seem that Mr.
and Mrs. Primby were set in a not too unpleasant
groove which would only end when it ran through the
ornamental iron gates that led to the Ealing Crema-
torium (a finale for which they had both expressed a
And then they took a holiday in the west of Ireland.
The ten days they spent in Connemara were exception-
ally fine, and it is scarcely to be wondered at that they
fell in love with everything they saw. Before they left
for home they had begun negotiations to buy Daroch
Lodge, a large, damp, rambling house on the outskirts
of Bally dingan. They returned to England to sell their
Ealing home, on which they had long ago paid off the
mortgage, and to arrange for the transport of their
furniture to Ireland. Within three months they had
said good-bye to their friends and had embarked on a
new life in Connemara. Mrs. Primby was reassured
about the move when, at the last seance she attended
before they left Ealing, her Aunt Millicent came
through in her rather breathless way and informed her
that she was about to cross the water and find all that
she looked for.
Sometimes, in the months that followed, Mrs.
Primby had wondered whether Aunt Millicent's seven
years on the other side had really done anything to
sharpen her perceptions. She had not been noted for
the accuracy of her judgements when alive, and far
from Daroch House providing all that Mrs. Primby
looked for, it seemed, at times, to leave a good deal to
be desired. There was one cosy little sitting-room
which she and her husband kept for themselves, and
called the office, but the fire smoked when the wind
was in the south-west, and it seemed to Mrs. Primby
that the wind hardly ever blew from any other quarter.
The plumbing had been done by an amateur whose
skill was scarcely equal to his enthusiasm, and was not
at all satisfactory. It was impossible to have a hot bath
because for some unaccountable reason the water in
the hot tank always began to siphon back into the cold
tank as soon as the tap over the bath was turned on.
What was even worse, when there was a high tide,
which seemed to happen every month, sea-water used
to regurgitate through all the drains, and on one
occasion flooded both the kitchen and the downstairs
lavatory. Eventually a plumber had to be called in
from Galway, and the floorboards had to be taken up,
and trenches dug down to the sea, and new pipes laid
which were very expensive. But what seemed worst of
all to Mrs. Primby, especially during the long, dark,
rainy days of late autumn and winter, was that there
was almost no social life, certainly not of the kind for
which she yearned. There was no bridge, and there
were no tea parties. The few Protestant families who
were relics of the Ascendancy kept strictly to their own
narrow circle, talking to each other in their high,
exaggeratedly English voices, when they met in the
post office or one of the grocery stores, though the
former Ascendancy did most of its shopping in Galway
or even in Dublin; but wherever she came across them,
they never seemed to be aware of her existence. The
newer English residents who had settled in the few
sizeable houses around Ballydingan since the war,
chiefly to avoid English income tax, made no advances.
Their criteria were almost exclusively financial, and
Mr. and Mrs. Primby clearly did not come into the
upper income brackets, in spite of the amount of money
they had spent on their drains. Mrs. Primby, however,
had made one friend, an elderly lady named Miss
Fisher, the daughter of a former R.M. who had retired
in 1922 and soon afterwards died, leaving his daughter
the small, comfortable house to which he had retired,
and a small competence on which to run it. On her
first visit to Daroch Lodge she had been moved to
confide in Mrs. Primby that she possessed certain
psychic powers, and Mrs. Primby had told her all about
the Spiritualist church at Ealing, the Wednesday
seances and the Friday Healing Circle. They had
become firm friends. Now, when Mr. Primby was busy
in the kitchen garden, waging an endless and losing
warfare with the snails, the slugs and mildew, they had
tea together and did a little furtive automatic writing.
So far, nothing very much had come through from the
Spirit World, though they never lost hope, and Mrs.
Primby's Aunt Millicent had already made a brief
appearance and left behind her a more than usually
cryptic message. Indeed, it was the incomprehensi-
bility of the message which had led Mrs. Primby to
recognize it as undoubtedly deriving from her Aunt
When Mr. Thompson came back on the Friday
evening after he had telephoned his London office and
been up to the Conneelly's, he brought with him
Murgatroyd of the Wire. Mr. Murgatroyd, though a
considerable drinker even by the standards of E.G.4.,
preferred to stay in temperance hotels. He said it was
because when he woke up in the middle of the night he
was able to go to sleep again as he knew it was no good
getting up and prospecting for a drink. Mrs. Primby
was pleased to give him accommodation because from
October, when they had arrived, to Easter they had
had no guests at all, and at Easter they had only had a
middle-aged couple who grumbled all the time at the
weather, over which the Primbys could exercise no
form of control. Mr. Hogan and Mr. Thompson had
been their first catch of the summer season.
When Mrs. Primby had shown Mr. Murgatroyd his
room she stood hesitantly in the doorway and said:
"You wouldn't care to make up a little circle, I
Murgatroyd looked doubtfully at Thompson, who
had come upstairs with him. He was wondering
whether Egan's might not have been safer after all.
There was a dotty glint in Mrs. Primby's eye.
"Circle?" he queried.
"My friend, Miss Fisher, has called. Her father used
to be a judge out here. She has wonderful psychic
powers. But, of course, if you are sceptical it wouldn't
do at all. The etheric powers are inhibited instantly if
we doubt them."
Mr. Thompson was the first to respond. He was not
an ace reporter for nothing, and had never turned
down any experience that was remotely likely to
provide him with copy. He slapped Murgatroyd on
"Why, of course we'll make a circle, Mrs. Primby.
We might get in touch with this St. Dingan fellow."
"That's an idea," said Murgatroyd, brightening up a
"I don't really know whether saints are allowed to
come back," said Mrs. Primby. "They're rather dif-
ferent. They may be too far advanced."
"Of course they can come back," said Mr. Thomp-
son. "Didn't this St. Brigid appear to the Gonneelly
children only two nights ago?"
"You might be right," said Mrs. Primby. "I hadn't
thought of that, but we haven't had a saint through
before, as far as I remember. But of course, there's
more in all this than meets the eye."
"When do we start?"
"In a few minutes, if you would like to join us. I've
just to get the table ready, and the paper. I think I'll
ask Mr. Hogan as well. The influence is always
stronger the more people there are. You see, those on
the other side have to use our vibrations to get through."
"Old Thompson here is vibrating like a Jew's harp,"
said Mr. Murgatroyd coarsely. "We shall be sure to
"I'll give you Jew's harp," said Mr. Thompson.
When Mrs. Primby had gone, Murgatroyd said crossly:
"Whatever made you do it? It isn't like you to waste
good drinking time. I must say I don't much fancy being
cooped up with two mad women and a planchette."
"There may be a story in it," said Thompson.
"Even if there is, the Wire wouldn't touch it," said
Murgatroyd. "The boss has gone all religious, and
spiritualism counts as a religion."
"What about this St. Dingan story? You're running
"That's different, it's Roman Catholic. Besides, we
aren't guying it."
"We may get something," said Thompson seriously.
Like all hard-boiled people, he was sentimental and
credulous at bottom, indeed far more credulous than
Fr. Rooney, though he would have indignantly refuted
the idea if it had been suggested to him. "As Mrs.
Primby said, there's more in some of these mediums
than meets the eye."
"You're dead right there," said Murgatroyd.
When they went downstairs they found Mrs. Primby
hovering about in the hall waiting for them. She took
them into the office, and introduced them to Miss
Fisher, a thin little old lady with grey hair and beady
black eyes, who was sitting at a small table in the
middle of the room. Mr. Hogan was also sitting at the
table, looking rather sheepish.
"With three big men helping, I'm sure we shall get
something" said Miss Fisher brightly. "As I told Mrs.
Primby, I feel full of power this evening."
"Powers!" exclaimed Mr. Thompson, who was
thinking of Gold Label. "Oh, I see."
Miss Fisher turned to Mr. Murgatroyd, who had a
rather soulful look. He was thinking of Egan's bar.
"There are strong influences at work in Bally dingan,"
she said darkly. "Superstition has raised its head. Evil
is all around us."
"Let's get down to it," said Mr. Thompson prac-
tically. "We shall have to go to the — the post office in
half an hour."
Mrs. Primby arranged them round the little rose-
wood table. She sat Mr. Thompson on Miss Fisher's
left, then Murgatroyd, then Hogan, and then herself on
Miss Fisher's right. In her right hand Miss Fisher held
a pencil over a sheet of paper, with a block of paper at
the side. Mr. Thompson was told to clasp her left hand
and the others linked up in the same way until the
circle was completed by Mrs. Primby's putting her
hand on Miss Fisher's knee.
"Don't we draw the curtains?" asked Mr. Thompson.
"Oh, no," said Miss Fisher. "I do automatic writing,
and you have to read it."
They sat silently for some moments, and then Miss
Fisher's eyes shut, and her head fell forward a little.
Instantly the pencil began to move over the paper.
Murgatroyd instinctively recoiled, moving his chair
back as he did so.
"Sh!" whispered Mrs. Primby. "You mustn't break
the circle or you'll spoil the influence."
The pencil had been describing a series of meaning-
less scrawls. Suddenly it began to go more slowly, and
Thompson saw letters forming.
he saw across the page.
"Good God!" he exclaimed. "It's wonderful!"
Mrs. Primby hushed him.
Mrs. Primby coloured a little but said nothing.
"It's St. Dingan," said Mr. Thompson. "We've got
on to him."
"Sh!" said Mrs. Primby. "We ask him questions.
"Are you St. Dingan?" asked Mr. Thompson.
DING DONG BELL
Miss Fisher's pencil wrote with incredible speed.
"Where are you?" asked Mr. Thompson.
went the pencil until it finally ran off on to the polished
top of the table.
"Might be either place," said Murgatroyd, who
could read it just as easily upside down. "Where are
MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY
wrote the pencil, and came to the bottom of the page.
Mrs. Primby deftly slipped a clean sheet of paper on
top of the old one.
"It's not very clear," said Mr. Thompson. "You ask
him something," he said to Hogan, who was looking
faintly disgusted with the whole proceedings.
"What do you want?" Hogan asked.
A GIRL, A GIRL I SAW, YES A GIRL
the pencil wrote.
"Dirty old man," said Thompson. "I don't believe
it is St. Dingan."
"Sh!" said Mrs. Primby. "He's trying to tell us some-
thing about the girl who found the bone."
"Oh, I get you," said Mr. Thompson. "We'll ask
him again. What do you want?"
WASTE NO WANT NOT
wrote the pencil immediately, and then, as if pleased
with this sally added
HA HA HA.
"The fellow's dotty, whoever it is," said Murgatroyd.
"Here, let me have another shot. Hey, you, what's all
ABOUT— ROUT— SNOUT— the pencil trans-
cribed rapidly, LOUT— BOUT— SHOUT. And
then the pencil ran off the paper on to the table again.
Very carefully Mrs. Primby guided it back.
"I'm afraid there are bad influences at work," she
said. "I think one of you must be a sceptic."
"Are there going to be any more miracles?" asked
MONDA T— TUESDA Y— WEDNESD A Y
wrote the pencil for the second time.
"Well, that's pretty definite," said Mr. Thompson.
"Are we going to find your bones?"
IN TIME— SOMETIME— NO TIME, wrote
the pencil. TIME PLEASE.
"I know whose influence that is," said Mr. Thomp-
son. "Try and put your mind on something else,
The pencil was just doodling, but suddenly it began
to write again.
ONCE UPON A TIME A TIME TIME
SHALL HAVE A STOP.
At this point the door was flung open, and Mr.
Primby put his head in.
"My dear," he said, "there's an awful smell of burn-
ing coming from the kitchen." He looked rather taken
aback. "I'm sorry, my dear, I didn't know you were
"It's probably the pudding boiled dry," said Mrs.
Primby. "Just put the pan on one side, Edward."
Miss Fisher raised her head and opened her eyes.
"There are adverse forces all around us," she said.
"I could feel them all the time beating black wings
round our heads." Mr. Murgatroyd looked apprehen-
sively behind him. "Did we get anything?"
Mr. Thompson got to his feet, followed quickly by
Murgatroyd and Hogan.
"It was very interesting," he said. "Thank you, Miss
Fisher. But now we must go and telephone."
"You'll be back for dinner?" Mrs. Primby asked him
anxiously. "It doesn't matter about the pudding. I'll
open a tin of fruit."
"We'll be back in about an hour," said Mr. Thomp-
son. "Is that all right?"
"I think I'll walk up to the village with you," said
Hogan. "I could do with one, too."
miss maconochie, the Connemara poetess, arrived back
in Ballydingan by the C. I. E. bus just after half past
seven in the evening.
She was a thin, angular woman bordering on fifty,
with her hair drawn tight down each side of her fore-
head, and then plaited and rolled into a bun at the
back. She always looked fearfully in earnest, mainly
because she thought spectacles made her look old, and
so she had to screw up her eyes in desperate attempts to
focus whatever was in front of her. Her unemphatic
chest was usually housed in curiously embroidered
blouses which she fondly imagined had been made by
Austrian or Bavarian peasants but which, in actual
fact, had never been farther east than the Commercial
Road, Stepney. And instead of a coat she normally
wore a cloak which made her back view resemble that
of a matador and her front that of a nun on the loose.
Miss Maconochie had been born in London, on the
northern slopes where Hoxton merges into Islington,
but she had managed to forget this, and certainly none
of her friends knew anything about it. Her father had
been a Regimental Quartermaster, and when his
regiment had moved from London to Fermoy, he had
taken his wife and child with him. Now Miss Maconochie
let it be understood she had been born in Cork,
and she herself had almost come to believe that it was
so, and that the record of the fact had perished in the
Troubles. She had even changed the spelling of her
Christian name from Mary to Mairi, and her speech
was now emphatically Irish, a combination of music-
hall Irish and Abbey Theatre Kiltartan that never was
in any of the four Provinces. "Begorrah!" she would
exclaim, and imagine she was speaking the language
of Brian Boroimbe, never realizing that she was the
only person in Connemara, and probably in the whole
of the twenty-six counties, who used the expression.
She was, of course, a fervent Nationalist and a great
opponent of Partition. Indeed, that was how she had
established her reputation, for never an anniversary
went by, whether it was 1798, 1803, the '48 or 1916,
but some ballad of hers was to be found on the leader
page of one of the Irish newspapers. It is an odd trait
of the Irish that they are for ever looking backward,
and care nothing for the future. It is the past that
holds them in thrall, and they hark back to the
Troubles as to a legendary Golden Age. Miss Macon-
ochie quarried busily into the past, with the help of
various popular histories and back numbers of the
Wolf Tone Annual, and assiduously fashioned her metric
tombstones, so that there was hardly a United Irishman,
or a Fenian, or a Young Irelander whose memory was
not enshrined in her verse. Two years before, she had
received the accolade for her labours when Austin
Clarke had referred to her poetry as monumental.
Miss Maconochie did not go to church. Her father
had belonged to the sect of the Plymouth Brethren,
and had found opportunities for the public profession
of this faith somewhat lacking in Ireland, where the
main Protestant denominations have enough to do to
hold their own without encouraging splinter groups.
She had long felt that Nationalism demanded her con-
version to Catholicism, but her reception into the
Church had been delayed. Whether the fault was on
her side or on that of the Church it is impossible
to say. Perhaps each awaited overtures from the
On this Friday evening she arrived with her friend,
Nuala Macken, whom she had known when living in
Dublin before settling in Connemara. Miss Macken
was a tall, raw-boned woman with no-nonsense written
all over her. She wore a grey tweed suit with a collar
and tie. Her hair was done in what appeared to be an
unauthorized version of the crew-cut. The only reason
why she did not wear trousers was that she considered
they had become too effeminate. Oddly enough she
was a wonderful needlewoman, and her delicate lace
was known throughout Foxrock and Cabinteely, and
even as far as Killiney.
It might be thought that Miss Maconochie would be
a little tired after her journey from Dublin, which had
involved leaving Westland Row at 8.40 a.m., arriving
in Galway at five minutes to one, spending three and a
half hours in Galway, and then a further three hours
in a C. I. E. bus. But anyone who thought so would
have been wrong. Miss Maconochie had inherited her
father's constitution, and she positively enjoyed the
journey. She had arranged, on her return, for two of
her friends to come in to supper and meet Miss Macken.
The two friends arrived at the cottage within a few
minutes of Miss Maconochie's getting back. She had
just had time to see that the table was set, the salad
made, and the soup left at the side of the range by the
invaluable Bella all ready to heat up, when their ring
came at the door.
"How are ye, how are ye?" she greeted them.
"We're only just after having come from the great city.
Come in and have a glass of poteen." Whatever might
be said about Miss Maconochie, it had to be acknow-
ledged she was a generous soul. She had long ago dis-
covered that the best way to secure an audience was
to offer them drinks, agreeing with the late Professor of
Latin at Cambridge that "Malt does more than Milton
can" especially when distilled. "This is my friend,
Nuala Macken. I think you've met before. Nuala, this
is Miss Hapgood and Mr. Prendergast."
It is sometimes asserted that most of the world's
oddities are collected in Taormina, or Capri, or
Majorca, but as a matter of fact quite a number have
settled in Ireland, many of them in Connemara.
Neither Miss Hapgood nor Mr. Prendergast would
have appeared out of place in Taormina, or Capri, or
Majorca, and they did not appear at all singular in
Connemara. Miss Hapgood, with the face of an
amiable pug, was also a poetess, but her verses were so
difficult, and the magazines which published her so
obscure, that Miss Maconochie was unable to think of
her as a rival, merely as a fellow practitioner. It was
rumoured in literary circles in Dublin that Dr. Leavis
had once had a nightmare after accidentally reading
one of her poems. Mr. Prendergast was what, in the
good old days, would have been called a remittance
man. His family made him a fairly substantial allow-
ance on the one condition that he did not set foot in
Miss Maconochie's house, to use an Irishism, was
built so that the front was at the back. There were
three bedrooms on the side that faced the road, and on
the other a large sitting-room facing the garden, and a
small kitchen. In the space between the kitchen and
one of the bedrooms was the bathroom. The sitting
room was divided roughly into two halves, the living-
room, which was also the poetess's working room
grouped round the fireplace and two of the french
windows, and the dining-room, which consisted of an
oak table, four chairs and a sideboard lighted by a
third window. On a low table by the fireplace stood a
tray of drinks, on which Mr. Prendergast's eye rested
appreciatively. In the middle of the three french
windows stood Miss Maconochie's writing desk, at
which she composed all her verses, or at least all those
which did not come to her in bed, and which she wrote
down in a special notebook she kept at hand on her
bedside table. Locked in the bottom drawer on the
right was a rhyming dictionary and a copy of Roget's
Thesaurus. It was an odd fact that Miss Maconochie
never needed a rhyming dictionary in bed.
"I thought you were marvellous last night," said
Miss Hapgood. "Such thrilling verses."
"Did ye think so?" said Miss Maconochie, preening
herself a little. "I thought I didn't quite do justice to
the last one, now."
"Oh, but you did. It was beautiful," breathed Miss
Hapgood. "Didn't you think so, Edward?" she
appealed to Mr. Prendergast.
"Battery run down," said Mr. Prendergast. "Meant
to get it charged, but forgot."
"You should get a mains set," said Miss Maconochie.
"Not so much interference," said Mr. Prendergast.
"Prefer batteries. Don't use it much anyhow."
"Perhaps you would read them to us again after
supper," suggested Miss Hapgood.
"I think Nuala here would object. She thinks poetry
is namby pamby."
"That's untrue, Mairi," said Miss Macken. "I have
no talent for verse myself, but I can appreciate it in
others. I think you have a very real gift."
"So has Doris here," said Miss Maconochie. "She
had a poem in the Blue Quarterly last month."
"I should like to see it," said Miss Macken. "If I
may. I don't promise to understand it."
"Of course you won't understand it, Nuala," said
Miss Maconochie. "Even I can't."
Mr. Prendergast had begun to fidget a little during
this exchange, but his eyes brightened as Miss
Maconochie stooped to the drinks tray, and picked up
the bottle of Robin Redbreast.
"What'll it be now?" she asked. "I only have whisky
Miss Hapgood took sherry, the rest all had whisky.
"And now, Doris," said Miss Maconochie, when
they were all comfortably seated round the fire.
"What's all this nonsense about St. Dingan that's been
going on since I've been away?"
"It was the Conneelly children, Mairi," said Miss
Hapgood, as if this went a good way towards explaining
"Oh, the Conneelly children," said Miss Maconochie,
giving an involuntary glance out of the window. "I
wouldn't put anything past them."
"They pretended to see a vision," said Miss Hapgood.
Miss Maconochie remembered that her friend was
English and a Protestant. An Irishwoman like herself
could not allow a vision to be treated so cavalierly. At
any moment Miss Hapgood might be going on to cast
doubts on leprechauns, or to express disbelief in the
"Come, now," said Miss Maconochie judicially.
"They seem to have found a bone which has worked
"Three," put in Mr. Prendergast, who had spent the
late afternoon in Duffy's Bar, and heard all about
Brendan Burke. "Dumb boy talking."
"You mean Mrs. Burke's boy?"
"Yes. Said several words. Now the bone's lost."
"Lost!" exclaimed Miss Maconochie.
"It seems the Conneelly's dog ran away with it,"
explained Miss Hapgood. "It's rather dreadful, isn't
it, if it really was St. Dingan's bone?"
Miss Macken gave a bellow of laughter, which con-
siderably startled Mr. Prendergast. "I call that good,"
she roared. "The dog ran away with the bone!"
"Nuala!" Miss Maconochie was shocked. "It's not
really a laughing matter."
"Sorry, Mairi." Miss Macken wiped her eyes on a
large linen handkerchief. "But you must admit it's
rather rich. The dog ran away with the bone!" And
Miss Macken slapped her thigh with a large and cap-
able-looking hand, and gave another bellow of
"Place full of reporters," observed Mr. Prendergast.
"Indeed." Miss Maconochie was reflecting. Up to
now she had been the chief celebrity in Ballydingan.
Poor Doris Hapgood hardly counted. The tourists
would ask for her house, and look in at the gate, and
even walk in and peer through the windows. Some-
times when she was in a gracious mood she would come
out and ask them if they would like to see her flower
garden. Now she would have to share all this with a
miracle-working saint, and share might not be the right
word. They might never get past the Protestant church-
yard at all. She had spent several holidays in Italy,
and knew what Catholic saints could get up to. Poetry
was no match for Catholic thaumaturgy. Like Mr.
Freeman, only for rather different reasons, she would
have to uproot herself, and go to live somewhere else,
somewhere like Letterfrack or Carna.
"I wonder if they did see anything," she said. ''They
may have heard a story at school from Miss Macardle,
and then made it all up."
"But what about old Mrs. Conneelly, and Poric
Mannion?" asked Miss Hapgood.
"That only requires faith," said Miss Maconochie,
as if the power to remove mountains was something
almost too commonplace to deserve mention. "It
doesn't matter what you have faith in, it would work.
I mean it needn't be a real bone of St. Dingan. Help
yourself to the whisky, Edward."
Mr. Prendergast needed no second prompting.
"When did all this happen?" demanded Miss
"They found the bone on the eve of Corpus Christi,"
said Miss Maconochie, who had read all the papers.
"And the miracles occurred on Corpus Christi itself."
"And where did they see the vision?"
"In the churchyard, just across the boreen there."
Miss Maconochie pointed in the direction of her
kitchen. "So they say. We'll show you the place after
we've had supper."
when Thompson, Murgatroyd and Hogan arrived at
Egan's Bar, they found Barry and Mrs. Shotter. The
car, a very large Chrysler, hired in Dublin, was outside
the door, the chauffeur at the wheel. Mrs. Shotter was
still sitting in the kitchen chair at the side of the smoky
turf fire, drinking her third Irish "on the rocks".
Several young men had come in from the bog, and
under the influence of whisky and porter which Mrs.
Shotter and Barry were liberally dispensing, they were
elaborating a plan for digging up the chancel of Holy
Trinity and securing St. Dingan's bones. For some
reason which Mrs. Shotter and Barry found difficult to
fathom,the only night on which this could be attempted
appeared to be Sunday night.
"Tomorrow night is a dance in Clifden," explained
one of the young men.
"But does everyone have to go to the dance?" asked
"All of us are going."
"What about tonight? Nothing like striking while
the iron is hot."
But apparently too much preparation was required,
and, even more inhibiting, it was the night Fr. Rooney
heard confessions after Rosary at eight o'clock.
"Sunday it will have to be then," said Barry.
"And Mr. Freeman won't be going into his church
for another week after Sunday morning," another man
"That'll be fine," said Barry.
A break-away group in one corner were wanting to
sirfg Mrs. Shotter some of the old ballads. The mourn-
ful strains of The Wild Colonial Boy began to fill the air,
reminding Barry, by a curious juxtaposition of ideas,
that he had to visit the dentist on his return to London.
"Introduce us," said Thompson to Barry, indicating
Introductions were effected, and Thompson intro-
"What are you plotting?" asked Thompson.
"We're going to secure the bones of this St. Dingan,"
explained Mrs. Shotter. "On this very Sunday night."
Barry had been hoping to secure a scoop, but realized
it was impossible.
"The boys are going to dig up the floor of the
church," he said. "It's sort of paving stones, so if we're
careful it can all go back afterwards so nothing will be
noticed. I had a scout round this afternoon. Then we'll
stage a really big miracle. Boy, oh boy."
"I'm going to get the pain in my back cured first,"
said Mrs. Shotter. "That will be a big miracle even if
it isn't spectacular at all."
Mr. Thompson should have known better than en-
courage a hypochondriac. He had been a journalist
for twenty years.
"You have a pain in your back?" he asked.
"I'm just a martyr," said Mrs. Shotter complacently.
"I used to have giddy spells, but I had a good physician
in Milwaukee and he straightened that out. Before that
it was hay fever, but I had injections. Over seventy
injections, and I was in the clinic for more than a
month. Sixty dollars a day ^elusive."
Mr. Thompson wanted to ask what it was exclusive
of, but didn't get a chance. Barry, who had heard it all
before, drew Murgatroyd a little deeper into the bar.
In a choice between Mrs. Shotter's back and The Wild
Colonial Boy, the latter won hands down. It could only
have a limited number of verses.
"And then I got analysed. I had a marvellous
analyst. He did my horoscope, too, and told me I'm a
very lucky woman, and I'm going to marry a second
husband, and he'll be a professional man. He cleared
me up fine, and I was just like a million dollars, until
these pains started in my back. Nothing does them any
good. I went to my physician, I went to the clinic, I
even had a session with the analyst. I'm telling you,
Mr. Thompson, my back resisted them all. I've had
infra-red rays, and ultra-violet rays, and I've been
massaged and dieted till I hardly know where I am.
I'm a Daughter of the Revolution, Mr. Thompson, and
I just had to come off the committee. My back was
taking up all my time. I just couldn't tell you the
things I've had done, and I'm just where I was. I even
went to a very famous faith healer in Los Angeles. I
was put on to him by a friend. He was just the very top
of his profession in India before he came to Los Angeles.
He can eat broken glass and lie on a board studded
with nails, but he just couldn't cure my back. 'Mrs.
Shotter,' he said, 'I have done all I can for that back
and I have never admitted defeat before, but your back
has defeated me.' I was really sorry for him. He only
charged me a thousand dollars, and he did my horo-
scope for nothing. It said I had a very unselfish nature,
and I should find real happiness where I didn't look
"A thousand dollars!" exclaimed Mr. Thompson,
trying to change it into sterling in his head.
"That's about three hundred and fifty of your
pounds," said Mrs. Shotter. The saga of her back was
not yet finished. She put out a hand to stay Mr.
Thompson, who was trying to edge away. "I heard of a
specialist in London who does nothing but backs. They
tell me he's the very best man in Harley Street. Sir
Hilton Robinson they call him, and he has attended the
backs of all the royal family. Could he do a thing for
me? He could not. 'Mrs. Shotter,' he said to me, 'your
back is unique. I've never had a back through my
hands like it. And if there's nothing I can do for your
back, then there's nothing anybody else in the whole
wide world can do for it.' What do you think of that, Mr.
Thompson? He only charged me three hundred dollars."
"Very reasonable," said Mr. Thompson. "But you
should have gone to him under the National Health."
"Well then, I decided to take a holiday in Ireland,
and I just picked up the paper in the hotel down in
Kerry yesterday and saw all this about St. Dingan's
bone. And I knew in a minute it was meant. My horo-
scope — the one I had done in Los Angeles — says
'Seize your chances'. So we came straight up here. If
my back was to be cured, it was this bone that would
do it. And now," concluded Mrs. Shotter, "they've lost
it. I have heard a dog has eaten it. I do think it was
very, very careless," She brightened up a little. "These
boys think they can find the whole darn skeleton."
"He robbed the rich to help the poor,
The wild Colonial boy."
came from one of the men, in the farther depths of the
"That would be wonderful," said Mr. Thompson.
"I shall have to stay on until Tuesday to see it."
" Where are you staying, Mr. Thompson?"
"At a Guest House down the road."
"Is there hot and cold water in the bedrooms?"
"I think there is," said Mr. Thompson. Then he
remembered bathing his forehead when he got up.
"Yes, there is."
"Do you think I could get a reservation?"
"I expect so. They don't seem full up."
"My chauffeur could stay here, and I could get a
room at the Guest House " said Mrs. Shotter. "Is it
"Oh, yes," said Mr. Thompson. "Clean as a new
"I have stayed in some Eyetalian guest houses that I
just would not care to describe to you, Mr. Thompson."
Mrs. Shotter lowered her voice. "I have been bitten
"There's nothing like that about Mrs. Primby's,"
said Mr. Thompson. "I assure you. What about
"No thank you, Mr. Thompson. I am not very
accustomed to hard liquor, and this Irish is certainly
stronger than this Mr. Barry here led me to anticipate.
I guess I will get Henry to run me down to this Guest
House and see if I can get accommodation and if I can
I shall stay the week-end. What is it called?"
"Daroch Lodge. It's only just down the road. I'd
come with you," said Mr. Thompson, "but I have to
do some telephoning. We shall see you at dinner, but
tell Mrs. Primby not to wait for us."
"You off?" asked Barry.
"She's going to stay at Daroch Lodge," said Thomp-
son, as Mrs. Shotter weaved her way out of the door.
"Where Murgatroyd and I are staying."
Barry looked at him suspiciously.
"Not trying an exclusive?" he asked. "She's my
"Be reasonable," said Thompson. "Would I twist a
pal? She only wants a place with running water in the
"She's offered the boys a hundred dollars if they find
St. Dingan's bones, and a thousand if her back's cured.
What do you think of that?"
"She might give old Egan here a juke box," said
Thompson, as the strains of Galway Bay superseded
those of The Wild Colonial Boy. "All these Irish tunes
are just the same. They go up and down like an air raid
"If her back is cured I'll put it to her," said Barry.
"What are you having?"
It was just after eight o'clock when Thompson,
Murgatroyd and Hogan got back to Daroch Lodge.
Mrs. Primby was taking the soup into the dining-room.
She had spent an enthralling half hour listening to Mrs.
Shotter's medical history from the time when she first
became conscious down to the abortive visit to Sir
Robinson. She might have been back at a bridge party
The soup was very peculiar.
"I'm so sorry about the soup," said Mrs. Primby.
"It was meant to be brown onion soup, but I quite
forgot the onions, and so at the last minute I had to put
some browning in it and call it gravy soup."
The roast mutton was all right, if a little dried up,
and there was nothing wrong with the tinned fruit.
Over the coffee Mr. Thompson remarked that he was
going to walk up to Holy Trinity churchyard before he
turned in. "Just to reconnoitre the ground," he said.
"I don't suppose I shall see anything, but you never
It is doubtful if he would ever have got past Egan's
Bar if Mrs. Shotter had not said:
"I can't sleep unless I take a little walk. I'll come
with you if you don't mind."
With a good grace, Mr. Thompson accepted the
"Delighted," he said. "But I shall just have to look
in and see the boys on the way up."
"It's getting dark, or we might find one of these
bones in the churchyard," said Mrs. Shotter.
"I expect they've gone over the place with a small-
tooth comb," said Mr. Thompson.
"Nobody's reported finding another bone," ob-
"I don't think all this fuss about bones is very nice,"
said Mrs. Primby. "I shouldn't like people playing
with my bones when I'm dead. But then I'm going to
"They'll put your ashes into an egg-timer," said Mr.
Thompson. Mrs. Primby was delighted at the sally.
"Well, come along, Mrs. S. It's going to be dark soon."
And Mr. Thompson and Mrs. Shotter set out for the
lord roundstone always enjoyed an evening with his
old friend, Colonel Wotherspoon. They had been at the
same private school together, and then Lord Roundstone
had gone to Eton, and Colonel Wotherspoon to
Wellington and eventually to Sandhurst, but they still
met in the holidays. Lord Roundstone always called his
friend "Porky", which had been his name at Morgrave
House, due to his snub nose and habit of pursing up
his lips when he was thinking, and Colonel Wotherspoon
referred to Lord Roundstone as "Mouser", from a
wholly apocryphal story that once, in an access of hunger
not unusual at Morgrave House, he had caught and fried
a mouse and eaten it for his tea. This was, of course,
before Lord Roundstone had become a vegetarian.
The Colonel lived in a moderate-sized house on the
outskirts of Ballynafad which he had inherited from an
uncle. It was screened from the road by a dank mass of
evergreen, but the other side overlooked Lough
Dhubach, on which the Colonel had the fishing, and,
despite its name, was a pleasant- looking stretch of
water. From mid-June to the end of the first week in
October, every day of the week except Sunday, the
Colonel would be found on one bank or other of the
Dhubach, a salmon rod in his hand.
Over the sherry before dinner Colonel Wotherspoon
had questioned his friend about St. Dingan.
"Never heard of the fellow," he said. "Ton my soul,
Mouser, you live in a very odd part of the world."
"It's no odder than Ballynafad," said Lord Round-
stone. "Why, Porky, look at those extraordinary people
who had a caravan in your field last summer."
"They were English," said the Colonel, with the
contempt for the sceptered race which seems to take a
grip of everyone who crosses St. George's Channel in a
westerly direction. "Besides, I soon moved them on."
"In any case," said Lord Roundstone, suddenly
remembering that he belonged to the True Faith while
old Porky was only one of Mr. Freeman's Seventeen,
"I don't call it odd at all. It just happens that some
children have seen a vision. There's nothing odd about
a vision. Doesn't your religion allow you to see visions,
"I don't know about that," said the Colonel. "I
don't think we encourage them. No guarantee where
they come from," he added darkly.
"The Catholic Church investigates them. It has
tests. By their fruits ye shall know them, don't you
"It's rather like believing in spooks, and table-
turning, and all that sort of thing."
"It isn't anything of the sort," said Lord Roundstone
indignantly. "I don't know whether I believe in
spooks or not, but this table-turning nonsense has never
led to any good."
"It has comforted a good number of people, Mouser,
which is something, surely."
"Some people will clutch at straws."
"My father once saw a ghost," observed the Colonel.
"It shook him, I can tell you. He signed the pledge.
But I'm glad to say it didn't last more than a year. He
gradually got back to normal again. Help yourself to
the sherry, Mouser."
"I don't believe there's ever been a real ghost," said
Lord Roundstone, pouring sherry into his glass.
"It depends what you mean by real, as that chap on
the wireless used to say. It wouldn't be a ghost if it
were real. But my father saw Lady Jane Grey when he
was Major at the Tower."
' ' I remember staying with you in the Tower, ' ' said Lord
Roundstone. "It was the last summer holidays before I
went to Eton. I thought your father was a brigadier then."
"So he was, but he was Major and Resident Gover-
nor of the Tower. He saw Lady Jane Grey as plain as
you can see me."
"It was a damn good holiday, Porky," said Lord
Roundstone reminiscently. "But I must say I never
saw anything, for all the late nights we had."
"You were always too materialistic, Mouser."
"Oh, I say, Porky," remonstrated the ex-devotee of
Madame Blavatsky and Gurdjieff. "I won't take that.
Who used to store up pages of lines at Morgrave House
and sell them for a penny a page?"
"That's nothing to do with it," said the Colonel.
"You can have a business sense and not be material-
istic. Look at the Jews."
"I don't know many," said Lord Roundstone. "But
I should say that, as a race, they keep their eye on the
"And at the same time they produced two of the
world's greatest religions," said the Colonel triumph-
antly. "Three, if you count Protestantism as quite
distinct from Catholicism."
"What's the third?" asked Lord Roundstone sus-
"Why their own," said the Colonel. "The Jewish."
"I wouldn't call that one of the world's greatest
"Oh, but it is. It's lasted longer than any other in
existence. At least four thousand years. And it's going
just as strong as it ever did."
"Old age isn't everything," Lord Roundstone said
argumentatively. "We're getting older, Porky, but I
don't know if it's doing us any good. My sciatica gets
"So does my blood pressure," said the Colonel. "Half
a century has gone since we left Morgrave House. I
suppose old Fatima is dead long ago."
Old Fatima had been their name for the Matron.
"She died before the last war," said Lord Round-
stone. "I thought of sending William there, but the
memory of the food deterred me."
"There wasn't enough of it," said the Colonel.
"That's why some people — " He broke off. Last time
he had mentioned the fried mouse Lord Roundstone
had got quite annoyed.
"Even St. Dingan can't put the clock back," said
Lord Roundstone. "That would be asking too much.
But I'm going to see what he can do about my sciatica."
They went in to dinner and were waited on by a
manservant who had been the Colonel's batman in the
1914 war. They talked of the approaching Test Match,
of cricketing prospects generally, and similar topics
until the manservant brought round the burgundy.
"No thank you," said Lord Roundstone. "It's no
good, Porky. My doctor says it's the worst thing
possible for sciatica!"
"And I can only have one glass," said the Colonel
gloomily. "And I've had to give up port altogether."
They sat in sombre silence for a few moments, and
then Lord Roundstone brightened up.
"I put my faith in St. Dingan," he said. "If he can
cure Poric Mannion, he can surely do something about
"I wonder if he could do anything about my blood
"I shouldn't be at all surprised."
"But he might not want to do anything for a
"I don't think they have our divisions over the other
side," said Lord Roundstone. "Besides, your church
has been giving him shelter from the elements all these
years, he's bound to be grateful."
"It would be wonderful to be able to take a glass of
port again without feeling it might be the last."
"I'll tell you what, Porky," said Lord Roundstone.
"I'll run you up after dinner and we'll take a walk
round the churchyard. A blow will do us good, and
you never know what may happen. There's some odd
goings on in the village at the moment."
"I don't for one moment expect we shall see any-
thing," said the Colonel.
"You never know, Porky," said Lord Roundstone.
"You never know."
in the meanwhile Belinda and Patricia and a reluctant
William had finally decided to hold a dress rehearsal
that night, to take place soon after ten o'clock, by
which time the conditions should be favourable. It was
hoped that the Conneelly children would be back home
having their supper, and William was able to inform
them that Lord Roundstone was dining with his friend
at Ballynafad, which was just as well, as the proceed-
ings involved the use of his tape-recorder.
"You'd better have supper here," said William.
"Why not come to the rectory?" asked Belinda.
"No," said William. "Your father would be sure to
smell a rat and not let us do it. He might think it was
blasphemous, or something of that sort."
"Sacrilegious," Patricia corrected him. "I wonder
if it is," she added.
"Not if it's in a good cause, surely," urged Belinda.
"You're saying the end justifies the means," said
Patricia firmly. "Which is what they always hold
against the Jesuits. It would be best not to think about
They were in the playroom at Lord Roundstone's ex-
ploring the contents of a large black trunk with a curved
top. There was first a tray on which were layers and layers
of Christmas decorations, and then a large Union Jack.
"Uncle flew that over the house when the Ambas-
sador stayed here," said William. "I don't think the
village liked it at all."
"There are almost more natives of Bally dingan in
England than there are left in Bally dingan itself,"
observed Patricia. "I heard Father say so only the
"What do you expect,when they've put the price of
drinks and petrol up?" asked William. "There's no
point in putting up with the weather if it's just as dear
living here as in England."
They lifted out the tray and revealed a vast assort-
ment of odds and ends. First there was a rather bat-
tered top hat, a brown bowler and two ostrich feathers.
Then there followed a number of dresses, a Father
Christmas robe, and a roll of hessian.
"That's just the stuff for your cassock, or whatever
they call the thing monks wear," said Patricia. "You
drape it round you and tie it with a clothes line."
"We can tack it up for you," said Belinda kindly.
"It shouldn't be difficult. Oh, here's the beard."
It was an enormous red, bushy beard on wires that
slipped over the ears. William put it on and went over
to the glass above the fireplace.
"Thank goodness it'll be nearly dark," he said.
"Anybody could tell it was false in the daylight."
"There won't be anybody near you," said Belinda.
"At a distance it's just perfect."
"We shall have to make a sort of cowl out of the
hessian," said Patricia. "Your hair won't do at all."
"You'd look much better as St. Brigid," William
observed to Belinda. "Look at that lovely blue dress."
He held up an Edwardian tea gown in blue silk.
"We've argued all that before," said Belinda firmly.
"It's far better for you to be St. Dingan. You'll look
"I shall indeed!"
"Now don't be a spoil-sport," said Patricia. "We'll
take these things down with us and do some sewing
while you make the record."
Just after half past nine they carried the tape-
recorder and a suitcase containing all the rest of the
properties out to William's car, and set off for the
village. They had decided to leave the car in the en-
trance of Miss Maconochie's,as she was, so they fondly
imagined, safely away in Dublin, and the habits of
Bella Naughton were well known not to include any
form of nocturnal supervision. That Miss Maconochie
might have returned on the Friday evening bus never
entered their calculations.
The main door of the church was secured by a stout
chain and padlock, but everyone in the village knew
that the padlock was only a cod. It had been broken, or
the rust had eaten away the works, before Mr. Freeman
became rector. However, a padlock, if not laid down
by Canon, is strictly enjoined by the Church of Ireland
authorities, perhaps as a substitute for the Cross, that
emblem of the Christian Faith which the Canons un-
accountably prohibit, and the chain and padlock re-
mained. The main door was on the north side, and the
vestry opposite on the south. The vestry had a small
door opening on the churchyard, but this was fastened
with a Yale lock of which Mr. Freeman alone had a key.
This was of no consequence as it could be opened from
By means of an adaptor the tape-recorder was
plugged into the vestry light socket. The reason for
using this instrument was that it had enabled William
to record several versions of St. Dingan's message until
he got one that satisfied him, and it did not sound at
all like his natural voice. He had also been afraid that
in the stress of the moment he might dry up from stage
fright and forget his lines, short as they were.
It was a cloudy evening and quite dark in the vestry,
though twilight lingered in the churchyard. At zero
hour, which was ten o'clock, William softly opened the
vestry door. He was dressed in a sort of monk's robe
which Patricia and Belinda had tacked together from
the roll of hessian, and had flour on his face, though
not much of it could be seen because of the cowl and the
"You look absolutely wizard," whispered Belinda,
who was to watch the proceedings from behind the wall
of the rectory garden. Patricia had to stand on the
vestry window-sill and shine a torch down from the
diamond-shaped pane at the top, which swung open in
the middle. The torch had a roll of black paper pro-
jecting beyond the glass so as to hide the source of the
light as much as possible. It was only a dress rehearsal,
because as far as they had been able to observe, the
Conneelly children were not in the dingle, but every-
thing was to be done exactly as they meant to do it on
the Sunday night.
"I'll be off," said Belinda. "Give me three minutes
to get set." And she went across to the main door, sped
lightly over the grass, and reached the rectory wall
which she quickly scrambled over. She had been aware
of voices at the entrance to the churchyard, and in the
distance she heard a car approaching. At the same
moment she also heard voices in the boreen which
separated the churchyard from Miss Maconochie's
garden. "Oh, dear," she said to herself, "the place is
simply alive." However, it was too late to warn William,
so she just remained where she was and had a grand-
It was not only growing dark, but a mist had come
down, and she could only just distinguish two dim
figures walking on the grass near the wall of the dingle
at right angles with the wall behind which she was
standing. Then she heard a woman's voice with a
marked American accent.
"I'll say, Mr. Thompson, this place has an authentic
feeling about it. I can feel whether places are authentic
or not, and this place is surely authentic."
At this moment William stepped out from the vestry
door, and Lord Roundstone and Colonel Wotherspoon
came in by the churchyard gate. William stood in
front of the vestry window, a floured arm emerging
from the voluminous sleeve of his robe and pointing
back towards the church, while a ghostly light played
round his cowled head and luxuriant beard. From what
appeared to be the bowels of the earth a deep, booming
Leave my bones
Beneath these stones.
For cursed be he
That raiseth me.
Whether Mrs. Shotter could feel that a place was
authentic or not, she was totally unprepared for an
apparition of St. Dingan. She gave a loud screech,
and began to run back towards the churchyard gate.
Unfortunately, there was one of those slab-like tomb-
stones in her way which seem to have been designed
in Victorian times to make sure that a husband or wife
should not be haunted by the shade of a deceased
spouse, at least if sheer weight of granite could prevent
it. Mrs. Shotter tripped, uttered another and even
more fearful cry, and fell headlong.
Lord Roundstone and Colonel Wotherspoon might
have proceeded to investigate an apparition of St.
Dingan. But an apparition of St. Dingan coupled with
what appeared to be a secondary manifestation of all
the devils out of hell was a little too much. They turned
and made their way at a gentlemanly trot back to the
"Turn oflthe light," William hissed up to the vestry
window. Patricia did as she was told, but even as she
did so a gust of wind blew through the church and
banged the vestry door. William was shut out, being
unable to open it from the outside. Deciding that the
best thing to do was to make for the car, he ran round
the west end of the church and crossed the grass in
order to gain the boreen. As he did so, Miss Macono-
chie's head appeared above the top of the wall.
For one brief moment Cork was forgotten, and all
the painfully acquired Irishisms of nearly fifty years
thrown to the winds.
"Crikey!" exclaimed Miss Maconochie, and dropped
back into the boreen.
Although it was after ten o'clock, Lord Roundstone
insisted on the Colonel's accompanying him on a visit
to Fr. Rooney. Not even the smallest children go to
bed as early as ten o'clock in Ireland, so there was little
likelihood of their finding no one at the presbytery to
Fr. Rooney came to the door himself, for his house-
keeper had gone home after clearing away his supper
things. He was surprised to see Lord Roundstone, and
even more surprised to see Colonel Wotherspoon,whom
he only knew by sight.
"Come in," he said. "You're a rare class of night birds,
surely. I hope nothing is wrong."
"Nothing, Father," said Lord Roundstone. "But
we have just seen St. Dingan in the Protestant church-
yard, and we thought it only right to come and tell
you. I persuaded my friend to come with me, as he
was a witness of the occurrence."
"St. Dingan," said Fr. Rooney. "Sit down, Lord
Roundstone. We haven't met before I think, Colonel."
They shook hands as Lord Roundstone somewhat
impatiently performed the introduction. He was
wanting to get on with his story.
"I was dining with the Colonel here, and we decided
to take a run up as far as Holy Trinity churchyard,"
said Lord Roundstone. "I may tell you I was seriously
thinking of trying this bone on my sciatica, and my
friend was wondering whether anything might be
done about his blood pressure."
The Colonel was listening to this with rather a hang-
dog look, as if he thought Fr. Rooney might class him
as a victim of superstition.
"It isn't magic, you know," said Fr. Rooney gently.
"It must work in the context of the Faith."
"Of course, of course," said Lord Roundstone, who
imagined he was referring to the Colonel's Protestant-
ism. "But St. Dingan's bones have been given house
room by the Protestants for so long we thought he might
be prepared to stretch a point."
"Oh, you misunderstand me," said Fr. Rooney.
"I didn't mean to suggest that the Colonel's religious
beliefs were any bar. Only that miracles must be
approached with a certain amount of humility and
"Of course," said Lord Roundstone again. "But
at any rate, all we did was go up to the churchyard
and walk up the path. We were taking the dingle side
because that is where the children are reported to have
seen their vision. And we had only just got abreast the
east end of the church when there was a sort of un-
earthly glow, and a figure rose up out of the ground.
Much taller than life size, wouldn't you say, Porky?"
"Enormous chap," agreed the Colonel. "About
twice as tall as I am. Dressed like a monk, with a halo
glowing round his head. I can tell you it was an amaz-
"He had a great red beard and glaring eyes," put
in Lord Roundstone.
"And an extraordinarily deep voice."
"That's right. A most amazingly deep and powerful
voice, that seemed tocomeoutof the bowels of the earth."
"Quite unlike anything human."
"I can't quite recollect his exact words, but it was a
warning not to disturb his bones. Did you hear what
he said, Porky?"
"Most extraordinary," said the Colonel. "Something
about a curse on those who meddled with his grave.
But I didn't catch it all because of the shrieking."
"Shrieking?" queried Fr. Rooney.
"There was a whole covey of devils after him," said
Lord Roundstone. "I tell you, Father, it was an alarm-
ing experience. They were all trying to prevent him
speaking, or to drown what he was saying. You've
never heard anything like it in your life. And then he
"The rummest thing I've ever seen," added the
Colonel. "I was in the retreat from Mons, but I never
saw the angels. I was asleep at the time in a dugout.
Wonderful sight, I believe. I was always annoyed
they didn't wake me up. But this vision, 'pon my soul,
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my
"You don't think," suggested Fr. Rooney cautiously,
"that there could be any natural explanation?"
"The shrieking simply wasn't an earthly noise at all,"
said Lord Roundstone. "I'm not superstitious, and I
think I can claim to be as level-headed as the next
man, but I should say that what we heard was the
devils out of hell."
"We're both men of the world," said the Colonel.
"And we had all our wits about us," Lord Roundstone
"It isn't as if we'd had anything to drink at dinner,"
said the Colonel. "I had one glass of burgundy, and
Roundstone had one glass of port."
"We're acting on medical advice, more's the pity.
I give you my word, Father, we were both as sober as
judges. It all happened less than half an hour ago."
"Can I offer you any refreshment?" asked Fr.
"No thank you, Father. I must run the Colonel
home. But we thought you ought to know about this
vision. I don't think there's any doubt whatever about
its authenticity. As I say, we had all our wits about us,
and we're not children."
And yet, that was just what so many men of the
world are, Fr. Rooney reflected. He was far more
prepared to accept as genuine a vision seen by the
Conneelly children than one vouched for by Lord
Roundstone and Colonel Wotherspoon.
"A Commission is sitting in the morning," he said,
"to question Brigid and Bernadette Conneelly about the
apparition they say they saw on Thursday evening. I
wonder if you would tell them of your experience, Lord
"You say this apparition gave a message?"
"It was something like, 'Don't disturb my bones or
it will be the worse for you', only it was in rhyme.
Wouldn't you say it was in rhyme, Colonel?"
"I haven't much ear for poetry," said Colonel
Wotherspoon, "but it sounded like poetry to me."
"Poetry!" said Fr. Rooney sharply. To his know-
ledge, derived not only from the breviary but from
quite considerable reading, the saints did not make a
habit of speaking in verse. It was what had made him
view with suspicion the apparition vouchsafed to the
Conneelly children, in spite of the miracles worked by
the bone. He suspected the child, Brigid, was liberally
endowed with the Irish gift of imagination. And
plainly this was not the case with Lord Roundstone.
"It reminded me of something," said Lord Round-
stone, rummaging in his mind through the flotsam and
jetsam of a classical education. His face lit up. "I
know what it was. Those lines on Shakespeare's tomb
at Stratford. I can't quite remember how they go, but
it's something about not digging the fellow up."
Fr. Rooney had been a subscriber to John 0' London's
Weekly until the cold-blooded murder of that unfor-
tunate periodical, and he knew all about Shakespeare's
tomb at Stratford.
"You think St. Dingan was taking a leaf out of
Shakespeare's book?" he said. "It may be, of course."
Lord Roundstone gave him a quick glance. Even he
was not entirely impervious to the feeling of scep-
ticism in the air. "We shall have to see what the
"I was given to understand there was some idea of
digging up the remains of St. Dingan," said Lord
"I hope not, surely," said Fr. Rooney. "But I hear
there has been some talk of it in the village."
"William was saying something about it at lunch-
time. Belinda Freeman was at lunch, and she said
her father had quite decided to leave Ballydingan if
any such attempt were made. Apparently Mr. Free-
man had expressed grave disquiet at the prospect and
said Ballydingan would simply become another
"Indeed!" There was a grim note in Fr. Rooney's
voice. "I have never been to Blackpool, and I am sure
many people find it a very enjoyable place for a holi-
day, but I should not like to see Ballydingan go that
The Colonel shuddered.
"Nor would I," he agreed. "The first thing they
would do would be to foul the rivers. And imagine all
the rubbish and the broken bottles. It doesn't bear
"People are bound to hear about this bone," put in
Lord Roundstone, "and come here to see if it will heal
"The bone has been lost," said Fr. Rooney. "You
hadn't heard, then?"
"Lost!" exclaimed Lord Roundstone. "How could
it be lost?"
"It looks very much as if the Conneelly dog has
"Good heavens!" said the Colonel. "What a dread-
"I'm not at all sure it wasn't a happy solution of all
our problems. Or nearly all of them," said Fr. Rooney.
"But now, as you say, there seems to be a movement
in the village to dig up the remains of St. Dingan, and
I'm not happy about that at all. I think it is being
encouraged by these journalistic fellows."
"I — I'd like to take a horsewhip to them," said the
Fr. Rooney smiled.
"I'm afraid it wouldn't do any good," he said.
"You'd be given a column all to yourself, and probably
a photograph you wouldn't like at all. I think I will
see what a sermon will do on Sunday."
"That might help, Father," said Lord Roundstone.
Fr. Rooney smiled again. There had been a rather
doubtful note in Lord Roundstone's voice. In his
opinion people liked to listen to a powerful sermon, but
they rarely translated its precepts into action.
When Lord Roundstone and the Colonel had gone,
Fr. Rooney went back to his sitting-room and sat
thoughtfully looking into the fire. He was wondering
whether to take a walk up to the barracks to make
an inquiry of Sergeant Donovan, but finally he decided
against it. It could wait until the morning.
Mrs.Shotter had sprained her ankle, but she limped
quite happily, on Mr. Thompson's arm, down to
"What do you know!" she cried. "I've sprained my
ankle, but the pain has gone from my back."
"Wonderful," said Mr. Thompson.
"I never thought to see anything like it. As soon as I
get back to Milwaukee I'm going to become a Catholic.
The vision was meant, Mr. Thompson."
"Sensational," said Mr. Thompson. "I must leave
you here for a few minutes. I'm just going to telephone
from the barracks."
Before Mr. Thompson had got through to London,
by courtesy of the sergeant and the help of a pound
note, there was a crowd of reporters, who had heard
Mrs. Shotter's story, banging on the door of the
"Whatever they offer you, I'll double it if you keep
them out," hissed Mr. Thompson.
Sergeant Donovan had bolted the door, and he
informed the reporters from the window that he could
not allow them to use the telephone.
"Give you a pound for the use of the 'phone," came
"Two," whispered Thompson.
"Two, Inspector," came the voice of Murgatroyd.
Thompson raised the ante to four.
"Where is there a 'phone that works?" asked
"You can telephone from Clifden," the Sergeant
With raucous cries the reporters stampeded back
down the street, and a minute later there came from
down the hill the sound of starters and revving engines
and the clashing of gears.
Mr. Thompson had just got through to London, and
was telling one of the sub-editors of the Excess News
Agency exactly what he had seen.
"I was walking in the churchyard with this American
dame," he said. "Aw, hell, she's fifty if she's a day. She
wanted me to show her where this bone had been
found, and she's news, I tell you. She's the one I told
you earlier had offered a thousand dollars if they dig
up the bones of this St. Dingan. Well, we were walking
in the churchyard, and suddenly this St. Dingan rises
up out of the ground and towers away above us. No,
I'm as sober as you are. I haven't had more than a
dozen whiskies all night. Hell, Bottomley, have you
ever known me get tight on a job? Oh, that was a
different matter. Are you listening? This is absolutely
sensational. Mrs. Shotter, this American dame, had a
bad back. She came over all the way from America
just to see Sir Hilton Robinson. You know, that
fearfully expensive quack in Harley Street. Well, this
vision has cured her. He just waved his hand in the
air, and her back's as right as rain. She sprained her
ankle falling over a tombstone, but it's cured her
back. She's going to give the church here a thousand
dollars. I'm telling you it's front page. It's a wonderful
story. It's got everything. There'll be people coming
here from all over Europe. It'll be a second Lourdes.
In fact,Lourdes won't be in it. I heard that dumb kid
speak myself. I wouldn't like to repeat what he said
over the 'phone, but there's no doubt he said it. I can
assure you his mother isn't a ventriloquist."
Back in Egan's Bar, sitting on the kitchen chair which
Mr. Egan had again obligingly produced, by the smoky
turf fire, and waving a glass of "Irish on the rocks",
Mrs. Shotter was telling her story for the third time.
"I've been cured," she informed the bar. "I said
I'd give a thousand dollars if I was cured, and that was
a vow, a real, solemn vow. So now I must give that
thousand dollars to the church."
The reporters had all gone, but Mr. Hogan was still
"Which church?" he asked.
"Why, the church where this happened," said Mrs.
"That's Mr. Freeman's church," said Mr. Egan.
"But it's only an accident that St. Dingan happens
to be buried there," said Mr. Hogan argumentatively.
"Don't you agree with me?" he asked Mr. Thompson,
who had just come back from telephoning.
"About what, old man?"
"Mrs. Shotter says she's going to give a thousand
dollars to the Protestant church. But St. Dingan really
belongs to the Catholics."
"I should give Hve hundred dollars to each of them,"
said Mr. Thompson, a second Solomon.
"That's just what I'll do," said Mrs. Shotter. "I
suppose they'll take travellers' cheques? It's a very
remarkable occurrence. I pick up the paper and see
this piece about St. Dingan's bone, and how it cures
an old lady, and a man with a withered arm, and I
know instantly it's meant. So I come here, and my back,
which has resisted all treatment from the most famous
specialists in the world, is cured instantly. It's a very,
very remarkable occurrence."
"A thousand dollars would be better," said Mr.
Thompson, who had been thinking. "To one church,
"And what exactly do you mean, Mr. Thompson?"
"A thousand dollars in one lump makes a better
"It will have to be divided, Mr. Thompson. There
is no way of deciding which church can really lay
claim to St. Dingan."
"Forget it," said Mr. Thompson. "The story is
you've given a thousand dollars as a thankoffering."
He rubbed his hands together. "Boy, oh boy! We shall
have all the world here next week."
"What about the job on Sunday night?" asked a
voice from the depths of the bar.
"I think that's off," said Mr. Thompson. "The old
boy pronounced a fearful curse on anyone who tried to
dig him up. He might have known we were after his
bones. 'Leave me be', he said, 'or it'll be the worse
for you'. And he sounded as if he meant it."
"I just couldn't make out one word of what he said,"
Mrs. Shotter remarked. "But he sounded very angry.
He can't have been angry with us, or he wouldn't have
healed my back, but I'll say he was angry at
"If you don't dig his skeleton up, how is anyone else
going to get healed?" asked Mr. Hogan.
"That is certainly a problem," said Mr. Thompson.
He brightened suddenly. "We must call in a water-
diviner, and get him to locate the place where these
bones are. Boy, what a story!"
"And what good would that do?"
"Well, then, anyone who wanted to be cured of
anything would have to lie on the ground over where
the bones were. It would probably be just as good as
the bones themselves. After all, it's faith that does it."
"I don't think my back would have been cured if I
hadn't seen this St. Dingan with my own eyes," put
in Mrs. Shotter. "That was a very, very remarkable
event. I would go so far as to say it was almost unique."
"You're right there," said Mr. Thompson. "Bot-
tomley, one of our fellows in London, was so suspicious
of the whole thing he practically accused me of drink-
ing. I told him straight, I never drink when I'm on a
story. The same again, landlord. Not until I've got
all the facts."
"Then this digging is off?" persisted the voice from
the back of the bar.
"Please yourself," said Mr. Thompson. "But this St.
Dingan fellow said as clear as could be he'd see anyone
in hell who laid a finger on him."
The door opened, and in came Miss Maconochie.
She was limping a little, and had sticking plaster on the
back of her right hand. She was also wearing a strained
expression, but this was largely due to the fact that she
was without her glasses. She never patronized Duffy's,
as it was generally referred to as the English bar.
"I've run out of the whisky," she said to Mr. Egan.
"It's a great shock we're all after having tonight. I was
taking some friends to see the churchyard, and St.
Dingan appeared in a sort of cloud." She held up her
hand. "I fell off the wall."
Mrs. S hotter looked a little put out at having to share
the honours with another woman, but Mr. Thompson
was quick to welcome the testimony of another witness.
"Who is this lady?" he asked Mr. Egan.
"This is Miss Maconochie, our famous poet."
"Pleased to meet you," said Mr. Thompson. "I'm
Thompson of the Tress. I came down for a holiday, but
I've been covering this St. Dingan story. Now, will you
tell me exactly what happened, Miss Maconochie?"
Miss Maconochie was nothing loath to oblige.
"I have my friend with me from Dublin," she said.
"A Miss Macken, and two people came in to supper to
meet her, Miss Hapgood, who also writes poetry, and a
Mr. Prendergast. They're both English, but good
souls. We had supper, and were talking, and the sub-
ject came up of the extraordinary things that seem to
have been happening these last few days, and before it
got quite dark I said I would show them the church-
yard where the Conneelly children say they found the
bone. So we went out of the back door, and through
the side gate of my garden into the boreen, which is
sunk below the level of the garden and the churchyard.
We stood in the boreen for a moment to get used to the
twilight, and then the most extraordinary voice boomed
out, almost as if it were coming out of the ground."
Miss Maconochie looked suddenly perplexed. "It
should have been coming from the sky, surely?"
"Can you remember what it said?"
"Oh, yes. It was in verse. I remember it clearly,
being a writer of verse myself. It was
' Leave me in peace
Beneath these stones:
I curse the man
That moves my bones.'
I have a memory for poetry, and the circumstances were
so extraordinary, it was instantly engraved on my mind."
"That's wonderful," said Mr. Thompson, who was
scribbling hieroglyphics in his notebook. "And then
"Well, I tried to climb the churchyard wall, and I
had got my head over when St. Dingan appeared just
in front of me. I knew instantly it was St. Dingan.
There was no mistaking him. 'Begorrah!' I said, and
then the stone gave way I was holding on to, and I fell
back into the boreem I scraped my hand on the wall,
and wrenched my leg."
"You may be interested to hear that I also saw him,"
said Mrs. Shotter, who had been waiting impatiently
to get a word in edgeways. "He came and cured my
back. In fact, he must have just been returning when
you caught a glimpse of him. I have suffered from my
back for more years than I can tell you, Miss Mulachy,
and I came all the way here for St. Dingan to work a
miracle on my back, and that is why he appeared to-
night. My back, Miss Mulachy, is cured."
"Maconochie," the poetess corrected her. "Mairi
Maconochie is the name, now."
"Pardon me, Miss Maconochie. I started with my
back in Milwaukee more than ten years ago, and I've
been to the greatest specialists in the East and West — "
"Excuse me," interrupted Mr. Thompson. He had
no wish to hear again the saga of Mrs. Shotter's back.
"I must go and do some more telephoning. I can quote
you as having seen this St. Dingan?"
"Certainly," said Miss Maconochie.
"Are your poems well known?"
Miss Maconochie bridled a little, and looked coy at
the same time.
"I make my living by writing poetry," she said.
"No offence, no offence," said Mr. Thompson. "I
just want to get the record straight. If you get money
for the stuff, it must be all right. I'm afraid it's one of
the few things I don't know anything about. I know a
few limericks, but that's about all, and they're not the
sort I'd care to recite in mixed company. I suppose
you've never written any limericks?"
"I have not," said Miss Maconochie.
"Ah, well, chackurn ah song goot" said Mr. Thompson.
He turned to Mrs. Shotter, and patted her on the
shoulder. "Mr. Hogan here will see you back to Mrs.
"Thank you," said Mrs. Shotter. As Mr. Thompson
went out of the door she put out a hand and took hold
of Miss Maconochie's arm. "It began with hay fever,"
she said. "I went into the Milwaukee Clinic and had
seventy injections. ..."
in the morning, before he went to Mass, Fr. Rooney
walked up the hill to the barracks.
"Were you out at all around ten o'clock last night?"
he asked the Sergeant.
Sergeant Donovan admitted that he had come in
just about that time.
"You didn't see anything unusual in the churchyard
"I did not, Father. I saw one of the reporters going
up there with that American lady who is staying at
Mrs. Primby's, and after I got in the house I saw his lord-
ship's car come up the hill and stop at the church gate."
"There was nobody else about?"
"Mr. William's old jalopy was backed into Miss
"It was, was it now. The spalpeen! I should like to
use your telephone, Sergeant."
Fr. Rooney's call was a brief one. He asked Miss
Hegarty to put him through to Lord Roundstone, and
when that gentleman came on the wire, he said:
"Fr. Rooney here. Good morning. I don't think we
shall need to trouble you this morning. There won't be
time to do more than question the children."
"It would be no trouble, Father."
"Later on, perhaps," said Fr. Rooney. "We'll have
a talk about it later."
There was consternation at the rectory when Mr.
Freeman brought back the daily paper just after eleven
o'clock. William had come round to discuss with
Belinda the events of the evening before, of which Mr.
Freeman had remained in complete ignorance until he
saw the paper.
"Good heavens," he said as he came into the sitting-
room. "Did you know this St. Dingan is supposed to
have materialized in the churchyard last night and
cured an American woman of spinal trouble? And
Miss Maconochie appears to have been in at it. I call
it most un-neighbourly of her. She doesn't come to
church, and yet she thinks she has the right to call up
apparitions in my churchyard. I've never heard such
nonsense in my life." Mr. Freeman looked suspiciously
at William. "You seem to know something about it,"
"Oh, I say," said William. "It's only that Uncle
happened to be there, and Colonel Wotherspoon. I
heard nothing else at breakfast. Luckily they got away
before any reporters could get hold of them."
"Your uncle in at it as well!" exclaimed Mr. Freeman.
"And I thought he was practically a teetotaller at the
moment because of his sciatica."
"Well, I take it very hard that he's started seeing
things in my churchyard. If he was wanting to see
things there's a perfectly good churchyard round his own
church. Though I don't know," said Mr. Freeman
judicially, "whether you'd call it a churchyard or not
round St. Joseph's. They've never buried people there."
"They couldn't help it, I suppose," said Belinda.
Mr. Freeman paid no attention to this interruption.
"I must get some wooden crates," he said.
"Whatever for?" asked Belinda.
"To pack my books. We must be ready to make a
getaway. I might take a holiday locum in England for
the summer and have a look round."
"Oh, sir!" exclaimed William.
"This place will be a — a menagerie in another week
or two. I see St. Dingan is reported as having had the
good sense to forbid anyone to dig up his bones. But
they probably won't pay any attention to it."
"Surely it will all die down now," said Belinda.
Mr. Freeman threw her the paper.
"Just read it," he said. "Some frightful fellow has
suggested getting a water-diviner in, and then when
they've located the exact place where St. Dingan is
buried he says the sick can lie on top of the grave and
be healed that way."
"Oh, dear," said Belinda. "Then he just didn't do
any good by appearing last night."
"Frankly," said Mr. Freeman, "I can't think what
he's up to. I don't want to speak disrespectfully of him
if he was properly canonized, though I very much
doubt whether he ever was — so few of these Celtic
saints were — but he's been resting peacefully under our
chancel floor for fifteen centuries, and now he suddenly
starts raising Cain. Why? There's no sense in it. In
any case, if he's really in heaven, he can't want any-
When Mr. Freeman had gone back to his study,
Belinda and William looked at each other in frank
"I thought it had. all gone off so marvellously," said
William. "But of course we never dreamed they'd
think of getting a water-diviner. Do you think he'd be
"I don't suppose that matters. It depends on whether
they thought he was. I mean, if he says he's found St.
Dingan's tomb, and they believe him, they could just
as well go on being healed by sitting on the tomb, or
lying on it, or whatever they felt like doing."
"It's really ghastly," said William. "Whatever are
we going to do?"
"I think we'd better fetch Patricia, and hold another
Council of War. We'll say we're going shopping in
Galway, and we can get the English papers. If we
hurry up we'll be there in time for lunch."
"She may be able to think of something," W T illiam
said gloomily. "But I think the whole thing's gone too
far. It's beyond our control." He was glancing over
the report in the paper, and suddenly he smiled. "Did
you see Miss Maconochie's version of what St. Dingan
is supposed to have said?"
Belinda looked over his shoulder, and then read out
in her best Abbey Theatre Irish:
"Leave me in peace
Beneath these stones:
I curse the man
That moves my bones."
"Actually," said William "it's quite as good as ours."
"I see she says she has a great ear for poetry, so she
was able to remember it without any trouble. I've
forgotten how ours went exactly. I hope to goodness
you didn't leave it on the tape-recorder."
"Of course I didn't. But wasn't it odd, Uncle and the
Colonel arriving just as the performance started. I
should have been petrified if I'd known they were
there. And then the vestry door banged, and Patricia
was still up on the window sill, so I made for the car
and ran smack into Miss Maconochie. Luckily I gave
her such a start she fell off the wall. I'd no idea she was
back, of course."
"It was lucky you left the car pointing out down the
hill so you hadn't to start the engine," said Belinda.
"You ought to have heard Uncle telling me all about
it at breakfast. He described all the devils yelling round
him. I suppose that was the American woman."
"I shall never be able to keep a straight face when
your uncle starts telling me about it. Oh, dear, things
seem to be getting more and more complicated."
Belinda went over to the window and stood looking
out over the garden.
"I shall just cry my eyes out if we really do have to
leave," she said. "I don't know whether Daddy really
means it or not. Sometimes I think he does, and some-
times I think he's just putting on an act." She turned
round from the window. "You know, I think the best
thing we can do is to consult Fr. Rooney."
William looked alarmed.
"We couldn't possibly do that. He'd say we'd been
sacrilegious, or whatever the thing is, and he'd be sure
to tell Uncle. Besides, it wouldn't do any good. It
doesn't alter the fact the Conneelly children say they
saw St. Brigid and found that wretched bone."
"I'd almost forgotten the Conneelly children. But
anyway, the bone's gone, so that's one thing out of the
way. And I'm quite sure Fr. Rooney wouldn't breathe
a word if we asked him not to. After all, hearing con-
fessions is part of his job."
"But we aren't Roman Catholics."
"No, but don't you see, it shows he can keep a secret.
I'm sure he's the only person who can do anything now.
He can tell the people not to get hysterical, and they
would listen to him as he's their parish priest."
"Well, we'll get Patricia," said William, "and see
what she says. I'll stand you all lunch at the Great
The Commission was still sitting in the sacristy of St.
Joseph's as they came down the hill in William's car,
after collecting Patricia, and set out on the road to
Galway. It took quite a long time to question Berna-
dette and Brigid Conneelly because Fr. Driscoll had
taken down all the questions and answers in his
beautiful copperplate, but at last they had let the
children go, after Fr. Rooney had taken them to kneel
for a moment by the statue of the Blessed Virgin on the
right of the chancel steps, and said a prayer with them,
and now the three priests were discussing what their
report to the bishop should be.
"I should like to have a word with your school-
teacher, Miss Macardle," said Canon Donoghue. "She
seems to have inspired the children with a great love of
the saints, and a great notion of their place in Irish
"There seems no doubt about these miracles," ob-
served Fr. Driscoll. "It is very unfortunate this bone
was lost before it could be examined. Did you see it at
"I did," said Fr. Rooney, to whom this question was
addressed. "But I think I was anticipating something
rather remarkable. After all, old Mrs. Conneelly, the
children's grandmother, had turned up at Mass after
being in bed for more than two years, and I was taking
her the Sacrament only at Easter."
"Miss Macardle had been telling the children stories
of St. Joan only that morning," said Canon Donoghue.
"And the elder girl, Brigid, seems to have grown up
with a definite awareness of her name saint," added Fr.
"And of St. Dingan," put in the Canon, "whose
grotto they decorated with flowers almost daily."
"You think it was some kind of collective hallucina-
tion, inspired by the older child?" asked Fr. Rooney.
"I incline to that view," said the Canon. "I think it
was subjective. What is your opinion, Father?"
Fr. Driscoll was doodling on the notebook in front of
him. He had drawn a bearded St. Dingan with a very
large halo balanced rather rakishly on the side of his
"I agree with you," he said.
Mr. Thompson, if he could have heard them, would
have been shocked at such scepticism. He was trying to
persuade Mr. Freeman, over the telephone, to allow
himself to be photographed receiving a cheque for five
hundred dollars from Mrs. S hotter.
william drove the car into a parking space at the top
of Eyre Square just after a quarter past one. They all
went back to the corner and bought the English papers
at Holland's; they had just come in from the station.
Ballydingan was on the front page of all of them, and
the Daily Wire carried a large advertisement in a black
box announcing an exclusive interview on the morrow
in the Sunday Sun given by Miss Mairi Maconochie, the
famous Connemara poetess.
"Oh, dear," said Belinda, as they walked round the
square to the Great Southern, "it would be fun if
Daddy didn't mind so much."
"The whole thing seems to have got out of control,"
"I was all against masquerading as St. Dingan," said
William, rather smugly.
"William!" exclaimed both the girls simultaneously.
"Well, I was."
"It was only because you were scared," said Belinda,
"and wanted to make me be St. Brigid."
"I wasn't scared at all," said William. He changed
the subject. "Let's have a look at the papers in the
lounge before we go in to lunch."
Sitting in the lounge with the Globe, the Wire and the
Daily Press, they read the various accounts of what had
been happening at Ballydingan with emotions which
ranged from high glee to near panic.
NEW LOURDES OF THE WEST
was one of the headlines in the Wire. M urgatroyd had
spread himself. His news editor had also included the
wholly apocryphal story of St. Dingan's Boot. Under
SACRED RELIC IN PROTESTANT CHURCH
Rev. Freeman, the Protestant minister at Bally-
dingan, assured our reporter yesterday that
miracles were nothing new in his church. "We
have a boot of this St. Dingan," he told our
reporter, "preserved in a glass case. It is, of course,
a pampootie, which is a form of footwear still to be
found in the Aran Islands."
"Do you really think he told them that?" asked
Patricia, who had been handed the paper by Belinda.
"It isn't true, is it? At least I've never seen a pampootie
in a glass case in your church!"
"Of course he didn't say anything of the sort. Or if
he did, he was only having the man on."
"He's sure to be livid when he sees it," said William.
"We'd better not take these papers home."
"Look at this," said Belinda, holding up a copy of
After recording the appearance of St. Dingan to
Mrs. Shotter, who was described as "a Chicago
millionairess and socialite", and the healing of her back
which, it was said, had been causing her trouble since
her childhood, there followed a photograph of Miss
Maconochie, taken some ten years previously, with the
FAMOUS POETESS SEES VISION
After an account by Miss Maconochie of St. Dingan's
springing up out of the ground in a cloud of smoke, and
towering over her like something out of the Arabian
Nights ("though you could feel his presence was pro-
tective" Miss Maconochie had assured the reporter),
there was given the rhymed curse on those who would
disinter his bones. This was immediately followed by a
FAMOUS WATER-DIVINER CALLED IN
In conjunction with the ecclesiastical authorities,
the Daily Press is to make a determined effort to
locate the remains of St. Dingan. It is known that
he is buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity church,
and if the remains could be located, their healing
properties could be made available to the sick and
suffering. For this purpose, the DAILY PRESS,
which is ever on the alert to bring to its readers the
latest benefits of modern scientific discovery, is
flying a water-diviner out to Ballydingan today.
"How frightful!" exclaimed Belinda. "It's just hope-
less. Daddy will simply pack up and go. I know he
"Surely we can do something," said William.
"Can't we buy another padlock for the church
door?" suggested Patricia.
"I don't suppose that would keep them out for long."
Belinda was absorbed in another story in the Globe.
"If they tried to break it, you could have them up,"
"Belinda thinks we ought to get Fr. Rooney to help,"
"There's quite a bit about him here," said Belinda.
"I'm sure he'll want to help when he's read it. He
won't like it at all."
PRIEST TO SUE FOR CUSTODY OF THE BONES
was the headline.
Our correspondent interviewed yesterday the
genial Fr. O'Rooney, who is Roman Catholic
Vicar of Ballydingan. He told him that the
remains of St. Dingan undoubtedly belong to the
Roman Catholic church as the Protestants are a
recent arrival in the village. "We shall sue them
in the High Court if necessary," said the Rev. Fr.
O'Rooney, "unless they hand over the bones into
"Cheek!" exclaimed William.
"The poor darling, I don't suppose he said it at all,"
said Belinda. "And if he did, it was just a cod. You
can't believe anything you read in the papers."
At this moment the hall porter came into the lounge,
and having glanced round, came across to speak to
"You wouldn't have a seat in your car for a gentle-
man who wants to get to Ballydingan?" he asked.
"Absolutely impossible, John," said William. "I've
only got the Fiat, and three's a bit much. Who is it?"
"It's this water-diviner man that's flown over to the
Shannon and taken a car up here. He thought someone
was meeting him."
William's eyes lit up.
"Of course I'll take him, John," he said. "Put him in
the bar and you can introduce me in two minutes'
"Have you gone a bit dippy?" Belinda inquired as
the hall porter left the lounge.
"I've got a scheme," said William. "It just came to
me in a flash. I'm afraid you two will have to go back
by the bus and I'll meet you at the Canal Bridge."
"It's kind of you not to expect us to walk the ten or
eleven miles from the Canal Bridge," said Patricia.
"Wait till you hear the plan. I'll get round this chap
on the drive back, and tell him I'll just show him where
the tomb is supposed to be before I drop him in the
village, and actually I'll take him to the Flaherty castle
at the end of Lough Dhubach. If I tell him the tomb is
in the dungeon there he's bound to want to have a look,
and as soon as he goes down the steps I'll just let the
trap door down again, and bolt it."
"But we can't kill him," said Belinda.
"Of course not," said William impatiently. "But
we'll make him promise to go straight home or we
won't let him out. After an hour or two down there
he'll be ready to promise anything you like."
"He might," said Patricia slowly.
"We just won't let him out until he does."
"Aren't there rats down there?"
"All the better," said William.
"We don't want to be too horrid to him," said
Belinda. "I suppose the poor little man can't help
being sent over in a way, if it's how he earns his living."
"But he's no right to mess about with St. Dingan,"
said William, "especially if it means your father leaving
"We might try it," said Patricia. "But if he goes to
the Guards afterwards, you'll get put in gaol, William."
"I shan't lay a finger on him, so it can only be a civil
offence," said William grandly, but quite incorrectly.
"In any case, Irish courts are always lenient with
people who are defending their homes. And we can say
we were defending St. Dingan as well."
"What about lunch?" asked Patricia. "I'm starving."
"So am I," agreed Belinda.
"We'll all have lunch together. I'll say you're two
friends I've just met, so he won't smell a rat and wonder
why you're not going back with me."
"I don't see why he should smell a rat," said Patricia.
"He can't have the remotest suspicion that anyone is
intending to shanghai him in the Flaherty castle."
"I'll go and get him," said William.
the water-diviner proved to be a ferrety little man
with thin, gingery hair and crooked teeth. He told
William rather aggressively, as soon as the hall porter
had introduced him, that he was a Cockney and proud
of it, and as if to emphasize the fact he dropped some of
his aitches and added supernumerary ones on no
clearly ascertainable plan. His name was Higgett.
"Have a drink, Mr. Higgett," said William.
"Mild and bitter," said Mr. Higgett.
"I'm afraid they only have bottled beer."
"Coo, what a place." Mr. Higgett pronounced it
"What about a Bass?" asked William.
"It'll have to do," said Mr. Higgett, a little un-
graciously. "Weren't you supposed to be meeting me
at the airport?"
"I'm afraid the chap that was going to meet you
hasn't been able to get over. There were developments
"I get you," said Mr. Higgett. "Rum do altogether
if you asks me. But it won't do to cross his lordship."
"His lordship?" William nearly spilled his beer.
"Lord Rotherbrook, 'im that owns the paper," said
Mr. Higgett impatiently. "Here's mud in your eye."
He took a mouthful of beer and then ran his tongue
round his lips, making smacking noises as he did so.
"Not bad," he said. "But I always says beer doesn't
"I thought we'd have lunch before we went to Bally-
dingan," said William. "I have two ladies with me if
you wouldn't mind them joining us for lunch."
Mr. Higgett gave him a prodigious wink.
"I always was one for the ladies," he said. "Bless
their little hearts. Wine, women and song, hey?" And
he nudged William in the ribs with his elbow.
William blushed scarlet, much to Mr. Higgett's great
"I've always been a lady's man," he said. "I've
buried two wives, and now I'm on me third."
"I'll fetch the girls in for a drink," said William
hurriedly. He hoped nobody was listening to the con-
versation. "Shan't be a minute."
"Take your time," said Mr. Higgett. "We've all day."
In the lounge William said:
"He's a frightful little tick. I shan't mind shutting
him up in the Flaherty dungeon one bit."
Mr. Higgett said "Pleased to meetcher," when the
girls were introduced, and leered quite horribly at
"You an Irish colleen?" he asked.
"I suppose so," said Belinda.
"You talk English," observed Mr. Higgett.
"Most people do."
"I thought there'd be more of a brogue about it."
Mr. Higgett sounded disappointed, as if he'd been
cheated out of something. "It's the first time I've been
over here, you know, and I'd always understood they
went about in donkey carts, and wore funny 'ats and
carried shillelaghs, and said 'Bejabers'. I haven't seen
anything but 'igh-powered American cars yet, and I
haven't 'eard anyone say 'Bejabers'. It seems more like
"A lot of the things you think of as being Irish are not
real Irish at all," said Patricia. "They were just in-
vented in the old days by the English to make them feel
"There's another thing," said Mr. Higgett. "Paddy's
pig. I haven't seen a pig yet."
"I don't expect you will see one," said William. "I
don't think there's a pig in Ballydingan. Ordinary
people can't afford to keep them now. You see it's only
a little country, and it takes an awful lot of money to
run it like a big one, with a Parliament, and ambas-
sadors, and all that sort of thing. So Paddy's pig has
disappeared." He glanced at the clock. "It's getting
late, we'd better go in to lunch."
"You'll 'ave lunch on me," said Mr. Higgett, giving
another leer at Belinda. "His lordship pays all ex-
"Oh, no, lunch is on me," said William. It would
hardly be possible to lock someone up in a dungeon if
they had just stood you lunch. "He means Lord
Rotherbrook," he explained to Belinda and Patricia.
"He called me in five or six years ago," said Mr.
Higgett as they walked down the corridor to the
dining-room." 'E 'as a 'ouse in 'Ertfordshire, yessee, and
there's a drought on. His electric pump just fetches up
mud, and 'e can' t 'ave 'is cup o' char, let alone wash 'isself.
Someone tells him of me." Mr. Higgett stopped at the
entrance to the dining-room, perhaps to recover a few
aspirates, and put his hand on Belinda's arm. "I'm a
seventh son of a seventh son," he said solemnly.
"How marvellous," said Belinda. "Then you can
kill worms by looking at them."
"I don't know about that," said Mr. Higgett
dubiously. "It's not a thing I've ever been asked to do.
But I have a Gift."
The head waiter put them at a table by one of the
"Do tell us about it," Belinda urged him.
Mr. Higgett required no encouragement.
"I was brought up in Poplar," he began, "and I
used to 'ang about the docks. It was easier in them days
nor it is now. And I heard an old chap telling 'ow some
people can find water with a 'azel twig. Of course, I
know now that you don't need no 'azel twig if you 'ave
the Gift like I 'ave, but I was only a kid at the time.
Well, nothing would suit me till I got our mam to take
us out to Epping Forest so I could get some 'azel twigs.
She took four of us. I was the youngest, except for our
Patricia Mary, who didn't count, being a girl, see, and
the three eldest were working. We came back loaded
with branches. I took them round to school on the
Monday morning — I was still at school in the West
India Dock Road you understand — because we 'ad a
botany teacher who was keen on you getting specimens,
and there wasn't much you could get outside of Victoria
Park, and most of the time you 'ad to run for it if you
got anything out of the Park. Well, would you believe
it, she said there wasn't a hazel among them. I could
'ave cried, although I was quite a big lad, getting on for
twelve I'd be. There was oak, and ash, and 'ornbeam —
I've never forgotten them — but there was no 'azel.
She could see how disappointed I was, and she told me
she was going out to Wanstead Flats the next evening,
and there were 'azels there, so she'd bring me a branch."
William, Belinda and Patricia were listening so en-
thralled by this narrative that the waiter had difficulty in
attracting William's attention.
"We'll have soup, and steak pie," said William.
"Anybody rather have something cold? Steak pie all
right for you, Mr. Higgett? Steak pie for four, waiter.
Do go on, Mr. Higgett."
"Well, she brought this 'azel to school on the Wed-
nesday morning. I shall never forget it. I breaks a
forked piece off carefully, almost as if I was going to
make a catapult, but lighter, you understand? And at
playtime I takes it out and walks with it in me 'ands
over the playground. It was asphalt, you know, like
they are. And, suddenly, the 'azel twig snaps in me
'and, and the next minute there's a sort of an explosion,
and a piece of the asphalt flies up and knocks me right
back, and a great spout of water roars up into the air."
"Goodness!" exclaimed Belinda. "How marvellous."
"It was a mains 'ad burst," said Mr. Higgett. "Some
of us didn't 'alf get wet through. We 'ad to go
'ome. Mam played pop, but dad told her I 'ad the
"Amazing," said William. "I suppose the mains
would have burst in any case, but your twig located it
just before it happened."
"You say you don't use hazel twigs now," Patricia
said. "What do you use?"
"You don't need 'em, not with the Gift. Besides, I
can find anything now, it needn't be water. Like this
corpse they've asked me to locate."
"How do you do it?"
"It's difficult to explain," said Mr. Higgett. "But I
'ave a sort of 'um in me 'ead."
"A what?" exclaimed Belinda. "Oh, yes, I see."
"A sort of toon. And it's different for everything
they asks me to find. Like a different wave length,
you might say. I just walks along where they think
it might be, and suddenly this 'um comes into me
"Have you ever tried to find gold?" asked William.
"It's funny you should ask me that. After I found the
water for his lordship he did think of sending me out to
find gold, and put it in the paper, see?"
"And what happened?" asked Patricia.
"He cried off before we got started. You see,most of
the places where you're likely to find gold are in foreign
parts, and I'm not bound to find any if there isn't any
there. And with this Gift I can find the least trace, so
there was no banking on it being a commercial pro-
position, and his lordship isn't one to throw his money
away for nothing. I can't go looking for water when
there's dew on the grass," explained Mr. Higgett,
"because I get the 'um all the time."
"How do you tell the different hums?" asked Patricia
earnestly. "I mean, what is the difference between the
one for water, say, and the one for gold?"
"That's part of the Gift, see? I 'as to set me mind on
the thing I'm looking for. Like this corpse now. And
then I get the right kind of 'um."
"It's not exactly a corpse," William told him. "It's
bones. The chap's been dead fifteen hundred years.
There can't be much of a hum."
"William," said Patricia reprovingly.
"If 'is remains is there, I shall find 'em," said Mr.
Higgett confidently. "I 'ad it once explained to me by a
scientific lady — really tophological she was — a friend
of his lordship's. She told me it's all a matter of vibra-
tions in the hether. Not the sort of hether you 'ave in
hoperations," explained Mr. Higgett, whose earnestness
seemed to play havoc with his aspirates, "because I 'ad
that once and it made me sick as a dog, if you'll excuse
the expression. But stuff that's in the air and hall
through space. Some people are tooned in to these
vibrations, and some are not. In fact," said Mr. Hig-
gett, "there's not many of us."
"You have to be the seventh son of a seventh son?"
"It doesn't always follow," said Mr. Higgett. "If you
are a seventh son of a seventh son you 'ave the Gift
natural like. But some 'ave the Gift who have no
family behind them at all. We 'ad a conference once
at Oxford College, got up by his lordship, and there
were one or two who 'ad the Gift and 'ad only one or
"Weren't there any women?" asked Patricia.
Mr. Higgett shook his head.
"It's like clergicals," he said. "The Gift doesn't come
"I don't think that's fair," said Patricia. "In fact I
should think it's just male prejudice. There must be
seventh daughters of seventh daughters."
"I've never 'eard of any," said Mr. Higgett. "It
stands to reason you'd 'ave 'eard of them if there' d
"Not necessarily," said Patricia. "The world was
run by men until quite recently."
When the party broke up, William took Belinda and
Patricia aside while Mr. Higgett went to get his bag
from the cloakroom.
"I hardly like shutting him up," he said. "He seems
quite a nice little man."
"You must harden your heart," said Belinda. "It
would be awful if he found St. Dingan's bones, and
Ballydingan became a second Lourdes."
"He's an anti-feminist," said Patricia sternly. "It
won't do him any harm to lock him in the Flaherty
dungeon for a time. I hope Grace O'Malley comes and
William had very little difficulty, as it turned out, in
marooning Mr. Higgett in the depths of the Flaherty
At first Mr. Higgett had rather taken exception to
the car, which was not the sort of vehicle, in his
opinion, favoured by the staff of his lordship's news-
papers. He had never known Fleet Street in the gay
Twenties, when young editorial assistants, just down
from Oxford or Cambridge, roared around Fleet Street
in anything from a bull-nose Morris to a supercharged
Mercedes. He was a little reassured when William
reminded him that he was in Ireland, and the tax on a
1 6 horse power car was £40 a year.
"Only politicians and the lowest class of gombeen
men can afford such cars," said William.
"You think it'll get us there?"
"Don't you worry," said William. "It has a heart of
On the way, William pointed out various interesting
items of scenery. Between Oughterard and Maam
Cross he indicated the bridge and the little village
where some of the scenes in the Quiet Man were shot.
"I didn't see it," said Mr. Higgett. "I like Westerns
meself. What's the cinema like where we're going?"
"There isn't one," said William. On which Mr.
Higgett gazed at him in open-eyed astonishment.
"They show films in the parochial hall or the town hall
at Clifden on Sunday nights."
"On Sundays!" exclaimed Mr. Higgett. "I was
brought up strict."
When they had passed Recess, William began to
prepare the ground.
"We shall be seeing the castle in a few minutes," he
"What castle?" asked Mr. Higgett.
"You know, where you are going to do your stuff."
"Castle," said Mr. Higgett. "They didn't tell me it
was a castle. They gave me to understand it was a
"It's a sort of crypt," said William. "Like the
catacombs, you know. Lots of castles had chapels
attached to them in the old days. St. Dingan died
fifteen hundred years ago, you know."
"Coo, lumme, there won't be much of 'im left," said
"I suppose if you find him, they'll move him up to the
village," said William. "There's the castle." He
pointed to the left, ahead of them. "At the end of the
"It's a ruin," said Mr. Higgett.
"I expect it's such a long time since he was buried
there are no vibrations left," said William.
"Don't you kid yourself," said Mr. Higgett. "If 'e's
there I'll find 'im. There's nothing I can't find if I set
my mind on it."
"I wonder if any of the chaps are over there," said
"It doesn't look far from the road."
"It's a good quarter of a mile." William glanced at
his watch. "We' ve time to walk over if you like. Have
you got your hazel twig with you? Oh, you don't use
one, of course."
"I don't see nobody about," said Mr. Higgett, a
"They've probably gone home to tea," said William,
slowing down. "We might have a preliminary run. I
should love to see how you do it." He brought the car
to a stop. "What do you think? Shall we walk over?"
"I don't mind," said Mr. Higgett, though it was
clear he preferred the limelight and an audience. "If I
locate 'im once I can locate 'im again."
They dropped over the wall, crossed a field, and then
climbed the mound on which the ruins of the castle
stood. The mound was covered with bog myrtle, and
brambles, and clumps of furze. There was hardly a
ripple on the lake, and in the far distance Colonel
Wotherspoon's house, set in a bank of trees, could be
seen reflected in the water.
"Blimey, there's nothing much of the place left," said
"The crypt is underground, of course," said William.
He wondered if Mr. Higgett could hear how noisily his
heart was beating. He lifted the wooden trapdoor in
the centre of the keep as he spoke. The woodwork was
fairly new, as the Colonel had renewed it the year
before when a cow had fallen down the hole and
broken a leg. "Shall I go first?"
"If I'm going to find this 'ere corpse, I mustn't 'ave
nobody with me," said Mr. Higgett. "Not till I gets
"Well, here's a torch," said William. It was the same
one that had been used the night before to project St.
Dingan's halo. "Give me a shout when I can come
Mr. Higgett went stolidly down the rough stone
steps. As soon as his head was below the level of the
floor, William banged down the covering and shot the
bolts. There was a muffled shout from beneath his feet.
"What the 'ell's the gime?"
"Mr. Higgett, can you hear me?"
"I can hear you, you young "
"Swearing won't do you any good, Mr. Higgett.
And I thought you'd just told me you were brought up
strict. Just listen to me a minute. You don't want to
die, do you?"
There was a sudden silence below.
"You could die very easily down there. You would
starve to death and nobody would be any the wiser."
William had quite a lively imagination. "But before
that could happen, the waters would have risen up and
drowned you. If the rats had left anything, that is. Can
you hear me, Mr. Higgett?"
There was no answer from below.
"You don't want to die, do you?"
In answer to this Mr. Higgett began to knock on the
underside of the trapdoor with a stone.
"It won't do any good," said William. "It's made
specially strong. But if you promise to go straight back
to England we'll let you out and take you to Galway
and put you on the train. But if you won't promise,
you'll stay there till you die and rot away. And in
fifteen hundred years from now perhaps some bloody
man will come and try to find your bones, and you'll
see how you like that."
"I'll 'ave the Law on you," came the muffled voice
of Mr. Higgett from under William's feet.
"You've heard of the Troubles," said William.
"Hundreds and hundreds of people just disappeared
and were never heard of again. And you won't be
heard of again unless you promise on your honour
never to go near Ballydingan."
Mr. Higgett went on banging away at the trapdoor,
but he must have found it tiring for his arm.
"All right," said William. "I've warned you. I'll
leave you for an hour or two until you've had time to
cool down and think about things. In an hour or two
you may feel like promising to go away. If you don't,
well, I'm sorry for you."
The muffled knocking followed him for a little way
as he went back towards the car, and then died away.
He tried not to think of what would happen if Mr.
Higgett remained obdurate. Plainly they couldn't
leave him there all night. The scheme began to look
rather less satisfactory than it had done when he had
first thought of it in Galway. He glanced at his watch.
It was not yet four o'clock. He would go and meet
Belinda and Patricia at Oughterard.
professor murphy or, as he himself preferred to write
it, O Murcada, with dots over the c and the d, which
have the effect of aspirates, so that it might be written
O Murchadha, was Professor of Celtic Antiquities at
Galway, which is a constituent College of the National
University. He was as unlike the roaring Celt of the
Golden Age of Mythology as could be imagined, being
a sallow little man with peptic ulcers, whose whole life
had been one long disgruntlement. Indeed, his choice
of academic career and the studies to which he had
devoted the greater part of his life had been consciously
made on the sole ground that Celtic studies were of no
importance and could not be of the slightest practical
use to anybody.
Although professor of a faculty, Professor Murphy,
did not disdain the seekers after elementary Irish, for
all was grist that came to his mill, so long as payment
was made, and made promptly. As all State jobs in the
Republic, from post office messenger to headmaster of a
national school and bank manager (though not includ-
ing Deputies to the Dail) require knowledge of Irish
as their primary and essential qualification, Professor
Murphy was never without a steady stream of pupils.
He had brought to a fine art the passing of the various
compulsory examinations in Irish, so that his pupils
were able to pass them without over-burdening their
minds with a subject they would never again have any
use for. The essence of Irish — and the Gaelic of the
Scottish Highlands — is simple: the expressing of sounds
with the maximum number of letters possible, no letter
to have the slightest relation to the sound it would bear
in any other European language.
His wife, only two generations from the bog, which
is the best Irish stock of all, was a big, hearty woman
with black hair only just beginning to turn grey, and
rosy cheeks which perpetually renewed their bloom in
the soft air of Iar Connacht. Her five children were all
grown up and in the key positions to which their here-
ditary knowledge of the Irish language entitled them.
Mrs. Murphy was an even more fluent Irish speaker
than her husband, for she had been born and bred in
the Connacht Gaeltacht where her father had been a
schoolmaster, though he had never risen very far for he
was a peaceable man, and even at the height of the
Troubles had never been able to bring himself to shoot
an Englishman. Her husband winced visibly whenever
she expressed herself in the language of the Ard-Rigte,
or High Kings, for her pronunciation was that of Con-
nacht, and for Professor Murphy there was only one
pure well of Irish undefiled, and that was the district of
West Munster. Her pronunciation of the word
"Tuam", a pleasant town in north Gal way, the seat of a
Catholic archbishop and a Protestant bishop, had been
known to drive him out of the house, when he might be
seen, a sad, dyspeptic-looking figure in an ill-fitting
macintosh, head down against the wind, muttering to
himself on the road to Moycullen.
In England Mrs. Murphy would have been the life
and soul of her neighbourhood, President of the
Women's Institute or Townswomen's Guild, on plat-
forms and committees, ameliorating the lot of children
or raising the status of domestic animals, lecturing,
demonstrating, and generally dispersing the energy
gained from her somewhat over-developed thyroid. In
Ireland, unfortunately, most activities are run by the
Church, and the lectures and demonstrations, where
they are given, are mostly given by the clergy and
members of religious orders, and the opportunities
available to Mrs. Murphy were somewhat circum-
She did her best by taking an interest in her hus-
band's pupils, and on this particular Saturday after-
noon had asked two men and two women to tea. Some-
times Professor Murphy would take tea with them and
sometimes not, it depended on the state of his digestion
and the general functioning of his liver. On this day
the portents were favourable, and he was seated in the
large armchair at the side of the fireplace in the front
room. There was no fire in the grate, and in its place
was a large paper fan on which Mrs. Murphy's eldest
daughter had painted in watercolour an idealized and
imaginary Connemara cottage. Tea had not yet
arrived, and the two women were arguing with the two
men about cumal (a typical Gaelic word in which the m
is silent), and on what basis a slave woman had been
valued at three cows.
"A very reasonable valuation," observed Professor
"What did the slave women do?" asked one of the
The man sitting by her on the sofa gave her a wink,
which, fortunately for him, the professor did not observe.
"They did the work," said the professor shortly.
"I suppose slavery was abolished by St. Patrick?"
said the other woman.
The reference to St. Patrick brought the conversation
round to the recent happenings at Ballydingan, and
just as Mrs. Murphy came in with the tea, someone asked
the professor if anything was known about St. Dingan.
"He was a companion of St. Brigid," the professor
answered without hesitation, "and is buried at Kildare."
"The newspapers say he is buried at Ballydingan,"
observed the man on the sofa.
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Professor Murphy. "He had
an oratory at Ballydingan for a time — I believe he was
a friend of St. Flannon — but he certainly retired to
Kildare and was buried there a year or two later."
"It's in the papers," said Mrs. Murphy brightly.
"I'm only just after reading about it. They're getting a
water-diviner in from London to locate St. Dingan's
remains in the Protestant church at Ballydingan."
"They must be mad," said the professor shortly.
"Get on with your tea, I'll be back in a moment."
Mrs. Murphy was noted for her teas, which was why
her invitations were seldom refused even on a Saturday
afternoon. The students sat down to ham, eggs and
sausages, and it was a few minutes before conversation
"It seems curious that all this has been happening in
the Protestant church."
"It was the Catholic church before the English
"But you'd think, now, a Catholic saint would appear
round the Catholic church. I know Ballydingan be-
cause I spent a holiday there last summer, and it's only
a step down the hill to the Catholic church."
Professor Murphy came into the room at this moment
carrying two large books.
"St. Dingan returned to St. Brigid's first foundation
at Kildare in 492," he said, "and died two years later.
He was buried in the precincts of the monastery, and
was noted for curing scurvy. Why anyone should wish
to dispute this passes my comprehension. I have here the
Annates Sanctorum Hiberniorum and also the Chronicon. I pre-
sume you can all understand Latin. The Annates say — "
But his wife interrupted him.
"Now do come and get your tea, Michael. There's
no one disputing with you. It's what these foolish
fellows who run the newspapers have been saying, and
nobody pays any attention to them at all."
"Unfortunately they do," said the professor. "Why
have they put it in the papers? Why are they trying to
distort and falsify Irish history in this way?"
"Well, there's nothing you can do about it now,"
said his wife. "Come and eat your tea while it's hot."
"I can ring up the parish priest. In fact that is what I
will do. He is the person to give the lie to these idiotic
reports. Buried at Ballydingan, indeed! I am not
going to submit to our having the lives of the Irish
saints re- written by English newspapers."
Fr. Rooney was surprised to hear that a Professor
Murphy wished to speak to him on the telephone.
Canon Donoghue and Fr. Driscoll were having a cup of
tea with him before returning, Canon Donoghue to his
parish and Fr. Driscoll to Galway.
"Hullo," he said. "Fr. Rooney here."
"Is that you, Father. This is Professor Murphy,
Professor of Celtic Antiquities at Galway."
"Ah, yes," said Fr. Rooney. "I thought the name
was familiar. We met at dinner last winter."
"We did. But I'm ringing you about this ridiculous
story that St. Dingan is buried in your parish. Of
course he is buried in Kildare."
"Certainly he is. There was never any question of
his being buried in Ballydingan. I cannot think how
such a story has ever arisen. He had a cell at Bally-
dingan for some years, which is why the village takes
his name from him, I suppose. He used to touch people
for scurvy, but he retired to Kildare in 492, and there's
no doubt at all he was buried there."
"I'm glad to hear it."
"I beg your pardon."
"I'm very glad to hear it," said Fr. Rooney cheer-
fully. "It has relieved me of a good deal of anxiety. It
was very kind of you to ring me up, Professor Murphy."
"I thought you might deny the story that's going
round, perhaps from the pulpit. We have enough
falsifications of Irish history going round as it is."
"I will do that. But I think you should write to the
papers too. Something authoritative. Come, you're
one of our foremost Celtic scholars. There couldn't be
When Fr. Rooney reported the gist of this conversa-
tion to his two colleagues, there was a moment's silence.
"It confirms the conclusion we had tentatively
arrived at," said Canon Donoghue at length. "The
message must have been a product of the elder girl's
"The inexplicable thing is these alleged miracles with
what was thought to be a relic of St. Dingan," said Fr.
"Faith is a wonderful thing," said Fr. Rooney. "I
suppose not all the relics in the past that have worked
authentic miracles have been genuine in the sense that
they were indeed what they were reputed to be. But
our Blessed Lord and His Saints were able to use them."
"That is so," said the Canon. "I take it, then, the
report as we have signed it stands?"
The others agreed.
"And now," said Fr. Rooney. "I think we shall soon
see the backs of these newspaper fellows."
except when he was out fishing, when the business in
hand was too serious to admit of interruptions, Colonel
Wotherspoon always enjoyed a cup of tea in the after-
noon. More accurately, he enjoyed several cups, and
he had no use for the small, delicate crockery which
ladies think is the appropriate accompaniment of after-
noon tea. He liked a breakfast cup, and a breakfast cup
which held almost half a pint. It was at this hour of the
day he generally read the newspaper, for it did not
arrive in time to be read at breakfast, and the Colonel
did not believe in reading over lunch, even when he was
On this Saturday afternoon the column devoted to
the events in Bally dingan attracted his attention just as
he had poured out his third cup. His first was usually
occupied by the London letter and the Correspondence,
his second by Myles na Gopaleen, or cricket reports if
there were any, and the third was devoted to a brief
browsing round the news columns.
Although the report, as might be expected from The
Irish Times, was not sensational, reading between the
lines Colonel Wotherspoon almost sensed the end of
Ballydingan as he had known it. In his mind's eye he
saw buses, char-a-bancs, hordes of trippers, souvenir
stalls, ice-cream cartons, litter, noise, all the flotsam and
jetsam of an urban civilization on the spree, in a sort of
kaleidoscope of horror.
A water-diviner has been called in by a London
newspaper who is confident that he can locate the
exact position where the remains of St. Dingan are
buried. Ballydingan is already being referred to as
the Lourdes of the West. . . .
The words swam before the Colonel's grief-stricken
"O my God!" he said. "The place is finished. "
'He left his third cup untouched at the side of his
chair, a sure sign of extreme perturbation, and crossed
to the window which looked down over the limpid
depths of Lough Dhubach and away to the O'Flaherty
ruin at the end of the lake set against the green and blue
background of the Twelve Bens. Occasionally there
was a slight splash as a lazy brown trout rose to a fly,
and the ripples spread out in a ring until they were lost
to siglit. But all the Colonel could see, in a sort of
clairvoyant haze, was a scum of floating ice-cream
cartons and cigarette packets, newspapers and toffee
wrappings, while his nose was filled with the fumes of
burnt diesel oil and petrol, and his ears resounded with
the shrill cries of demoniac children.
"It's too beastly," he said, and made his way out of
the house, absent-mindedly taking up a trout rod as he
crossed the hall. Slowly he descended to the level of the
lake, and began to walk along the left-hand bank, his
air of dejection that of one about to bid it farewell for
It must have been just after five o'clock when the
Colonel arrived at the farther end of the lake, and
stood miserably looking across that delightful stretch of
water to the house from which he must so soon uproot
himself. And as he stood, sunk in gloom, heedless of the
rising trout and even of his deadly enemy, a black
cormorant which made its purposeful way almost over
his head, a curious sound began to penetrate his con-
sciousness, a kind of rhythmic knocking which came
in tired bursts from somewhere immediately behind
him. He glanced up at the ruins of the O'Flaherty keep,
and the thought crossed his mind that perhaps tourists
were in the underground storeroom, popularly known
as the dungeon. There had been a court case about the
cow which had fallen through the old trapdoor,
though it had been dismissed on the grounds of con-
tributory negligence, because the cow had no shadow of
right to be on the property at all. In a few weeks' time
the Colonel would not be caring whether the trapdoor
remained open or not, and he felt almost cheered at the
thought that an unsuspecting pilgrim might even fall
down the steps and break his neck. But at the moment
the property was still his, and he decided to inspect the
new trapdoor which he had had made the previous
year. He left his rod against a rock on the foreshore and
climbed the mound to the castle.
"Extraordinary thing!" he exclaimed, for there was
no question now but that the hammering was coming
from beneath the trapdoor. A particularly savage
tattoo greeted him as he stepped under the archway
into the tower.
"Hullo there!" said the Colonel.
"Let me out," came a muffled and exhausted cry.
"What are you doing?"
This was scarcely a tactful question. Mr. Higgett's
cup bubbled over.
"I'll 'ave the Law on you," he shouted, and Mr.
Higgett rolled his r's at the end of the word Law in a
most threatening fashion. "I'll 'ave you gaoled."
"My good man, I would have you know that you are
trespassing on my property," said the Colonel. "Who
"I'm Mr. 'Iggett, and I was shut up 'ere by a vil-
lainous, red 'aired rascal hours ago."
"A cow fell down there last year," said the Colonel,
"and the court ruled that it had no locus standi on the
property at all. So you have still less, as human beings
are supposed to be rational beings where animals are
Mr. Higgett gave a sob of indignation and exhaustion.
"Let me out," he said.
"I suppose I had better release you," said the
Colonel, and stooped to shoot the bolt. A dishevelled
Mr. Higgett, even more ferrety- looking than usual,
pushed up the cover and began slowly to emerge.
"I can't think why you came here," said the Colonel.
"And where is your friend?"
"'E's no friend of mine," said Mr. Higgett, feebly
dusting down his blue serge suit. "A red 'aired devil
in an old Fiat car."
The Colonel started.
"A Fiat car?" he said.
"I ought to 'ave known no respectable journalist
would 'ave a car like that," said Mr. Higgett. "No one
employed by Lord Rotherbrook at any rate."
"Lord Rotherbrook!" The Colonel was getting be-
wildered. It had seemed for a moment possible that
William was the person responsible for incarcerating
this revolting little man in the Flaherty dungeon, but
William had no connection with Lord Rotherbrook.
" 'Is lordship sent me 'ere from London to locate this
corpse that's missing, and this red 'aired devil met me
in Galway and brought me 'ere and said it was the
place. And when I goes down to 'ave a dekko 'e shuts
The Colonel's intuitions had begun to work overtime.
"Then you're the man," he began, and stopped.
This was the man, the fiend in human shape, whose
efforts would result in turning Ballydingan from a
terrestrial paradise to a hell on earth unless something
was done, and done quickly. Some benefactor of the
human race had shut him up, and he, Colonel Wother-
spoon, had foolishly set him at liberty again to go on
with his nefarious work.
"A tall young fellow with red hair?" asked the Colonel.
"That's 'im. 'E 'ad two women with 'im in Galway.
They're hall in the plot. I knows it now. Laughing at
me, they was. I'll have the Law on them."
"They had a small Fiat?"
"A reg'lar little rattletrap. Painted red."
The Colonel saw it all. William had done his best.
He would give him a handsome tip when he went up
to Cambridge in the autumn.
"And he brought you here to find the remains of St.
"I've flown from London at 'is lordship's request,
see? And no one meets me at the airport. So I takes a
taxi to Galway. And I'm introduced to this fellow and
'e says 'e'll take me to Ballydingan. I don't like the
look of 'is car, but there seems no 'elp for it as the porter
said it was a good forty miles, and I goes with 'im.
Then 'e tells me this is the place, and I agree to 'ave a
preliminary dekko. And I just starts going down these
'ere steps when he slams the lid down and tells me 'e's
going to leave me to be eaten by rats and drowned by
the tide unless I promise to go straight back to England."
"Stout fellow," said the Colonel absently. "There
isn't a tide, of course, it's fresh water." Even as he spoke
he was deciding on a line of action. It might work. "I
should very seriously advise you to get back to England
as soon as you possibly can."
Mr. Higgett looked at him dumbly. There was a
note of authority in the Colonel's voice. Mr. Higgett
had served, much against his inclination, in the
Pioneer Corps for some three years of the last war and
because, or in spite of that, knew something of military
discipline. The Colonel glanced at his watch.
"There's a bus to Galway will be coming along the
road here at any minute," he said briskly. "I advise you
to get back to England while the going's good, and
while you still have a whole skin. This is Ireland, you
know, the Republic of Ireland, and the Queen's writ
doesn't run here any more. People are very much
against this St. Dingan's being disturbed. You've
heard of the Troubles?" asked the Colonel, warming to
his theme. "I wouldn't give that for your life," and the
Colonel snapped his fingers in the air, "if you go to
Bally dingan now."
"Oo, I say," said Mr. Higgett blankly.
"Feeling is running high," said the Colonel grimly.
"The fellow who put you down there is quite an
ordinary, decent sort. But once he's roused he'll do
anything. Are you married?"
"I am," said Mr. Higgett. "I've been married three
"Well, if you want to see your wife again, I should
take this bus and get back to England. You'll regret it
if you don't."
They had begun to walk down the slope and make
their way to the road.
"Where's my bag I want to know?" said Mr.
"It will be sent on," said the Colonel, but as they
neared the wall they saw it where William had left it
before he went back down the road to Oughterard.
"Someone might 'ave stolen it," said Mr. Higgett
"Certainly not," said the Colonel, forgetting the
picture of lawlessness which he had been painting for
Mr. Higgett only a moment before. "People don't
steal other people's bags in Ireland. But," he added
quickly, realizing that he had perhaps made a bloomer,
"they'd cut your throat as soon as look at you if you get
the wrong side of them."
In the distance down the road from Clifden could be
seen the green, single-decker Galway bus with Bartley
Egan at the wheel.
"I earnestly advise you to get back while you can,"
said the Colonel. He thrust his left hand into his inside
pocket and with his right waved to stop the bus.
"Here's a fiver," he said. "For expenses. But if you
come back, I can't guarantee to rescue you a second
Whether Mr. Higgett would have gone if he had had
time to reflect, it is impossible to say. His native Cock-
ney pugnacity had been considerably damped by his
sojourn in the O'Flaherty keep, and the fear of rats and
of the rising tide had lowered his resistance. The bus
stopped, the Colonel bundled him in and handed his
bag up to the conductor. In a matter of seconds the
bus was on its way again. Colonel Wotherspoon turned
and looked back across the lough, and at the mellow
stone walls of his house embowered in trees and re-
flected in the still water. He mopped his brow.
Whether or not he had done anything towards pre-
serving the unspoiled peace of Ballydingan he could
not be sure. At least he had secured a momentary
william got to Oughterard at twenty minutes to six
and had a few minutes to wait until the Clifden bus
pulled in by the Anglers' Hotel. When the bus arrived
he saw Belinda and Patricia in the front seat, and
beckoned them to join him.
"We've wasted pounds" said Belinda. "You know
how enormous the fares are now. Why didn't you tell
us you'd be here?"
"I'd no idea the thing would go so easily," explained
William. "He simply walked down the steps and I
slammed the trapdoor down."
"And what do we do next?" asked Patricia.
"I thought we'd go and see what he's feeling like.
After about three hours down there he should be ready
to listen to reason."
"And if he isn't?"
"I don't know." William had not yet begun to con-
template this possibility, or even what he was going to do
with Mr. Higgett when he had been liberated. "I suppose
we'd have to leave him for a bit longer until he cooled off. ' '
"We could go home and get sandwiches," said
Belinda, "and picnic on top of him."
"I suppose it's quite easy to open from the inside
once you've shot the bolt?" asked Patricia.
"The trapdoor? Yes, it is."
"Well, if the worst comes to the worst we shall just
have to shoot the bolt back very quietly and run away.
Then, sooner or later, he'd find he could get out."
"And you'd have to lie low, William," said Belinda,
"until he'd left the neighbourhood."
They climbed into William's car and set off for the
Canal Bridge and Lough Dhubach.
It was a lovely evening, though the westering sun was
rather too much of a good thing for WillianijWho was
at the wheel and steering steadily into it. The Maam
Turks rose up on their right in hues of green and blue
and grey. They crossed the head of the Maam valley,
and ahead of them Were the Twelve Bens, the mountain
heart of Connemara. It was here that the bus from
Clifden to Galway passed them, carrying, though they
were unaware of it, the angry little figure of Mr. Hig-
gett, who was pouring out to Paddy Lally, the con-
ductor, the story of his ill-treatment and the outrageous
reception he had received on his first visit to the
Emerald Isle. The sympathy with which his tale of woe
was received did much to restore his wounded vanity.
William pulled up in almost the identical spot where
he had stopped three hours before. They all got slowly
out of the car and stood for a moment listening, and
looking glumly across to the O'Flaherty ruin.
"He'll have cooled down by now," said William,
giving voice to the unspoken apprehension which had
been mounting within them for the past half hour.
"Goodness, his bag's gone."
He was looking over the wall where he had dropped
Mr. Higgett's bag, and there was no sign of it anywhere.
"We haven't passed any tinkers," said Belinda.
"How frightful," said William. "I'll offer to pay for
it, of course. I just don't understand it. People don't
steal things like other people's bags."
"Some tinkers may have gone the other way,"
"It's a good job he didn't bring some special 'azel
wand to which he was attached," said Belinda, trying
to look on the bright side of things. "I expect it was
only a flannel nightshirt and a toothbrush. I feel sure
he wore a flannel nightshirt."
"I'll go and have a talk to him," said William. "You
two wait here."
"We'll all come," said Belinda.
"No," said William. "It's no good us all getting
involved. Besides, I may have to make a quick
"If there were three of us, then he wouldn't know
which of us to chase," said Patricia sensibly. "Like the
donkey between the two loads of hay."
"We three are quite a match for Mr. Higgett," said
They dropped over the wall, crossed the field, and
clambered up the sloping ground at the base of the
ruined tower. There was a silence which was almost
palpable. William banged on the top of the trapdoor.
"Mr. Higgett!" he shouted.
There was no reply, except for a faint echo which
came three times from across the lake, each time grow-
ing fainter until the silence closed down again.
"Oh dear," said Belinda. "I do hope nothing has
happened to him. You don't think he had a bad heart
or something and has died of shock?"
"Of course not," said William, but he sounded un-
easy. "I expect he's lying low so he can spring out and
take us by surprise." He gave another bang on the
trapdoor. "Mr. Higgett," he called down, "we've come
to free you if you promise to go home."
"I think we'd better risk it, and open the thing up,"
said Patricia. "Something may have happened to
William stooped and shot the bolt. He had half
expected the trapdoor to be pushed upward from be-
low by an irate Mr. Higgett, but nothing happened.
He waited a few moments, then quickly raised it and
stepped back. The stone steps were revealed going
down into what had been an O'Flaherty storeroom in
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
"He's probably had a heart attack or something,"
said Belinda. "We shall have to go down and have a
"It's his own fault, anyway," said William savagely.
"He shouldn't have come over here, trying to raise hell
"He was only doing his job, poor little man," ob-
"You might say that of — of hired murderers," said
William. "And he was going to murder the place as
we know it."
Belinda was peering down into the depths below.
"Mr. Higgett!" she called, but there was no reply.
W T illiam began to go cautiously down the steps. "I
gave him my torch," he said. "He needn't have been
scared of the dark because it would have lasted till now
if he'd left it on all the time. I got a new battery on
Wednesday. I shall never be able to see anything with
matches." He struck one as he spoke, and the girls
watched him as he disappeared round the turn of the
stairs. A moment later his voice came back to them.
"There's no one here."
"Are you sure?" Belinda called down to him.
William reappeared on the steps.
"There's only the one cellar place, and it isn't very
big. It's absolutely empty."
"There isn't any secret passage?" asked Patricia.
"I've never heard of one, and they're all a cod, any-
"Whatever can have happened to him?" Patricia
peered uncertainly down the steps as if trying to con-
jure up the presence of the absconding Mr. Higgett.
"You're sure you fastened him in properly?"
"Of course I did," said William. "You couldn't be
mistaken in a thing like that. Besides, you all saw the
bolt was shot, and there's no possible way of opening it
from the inside. And I could hear him banging away
on the under side of the trapdoor all the way back to
"Then someone passing must have heard him and
let him out," said Patricia. "There's nothing more we
can do now, anyway."
"Let's call in and consult Fr. Rooney," suggested
Belinda. "I don't mean about Mr. Higgett particu-
larly, I mean about the whole thing. I'm sure he could
tell the village it would be sacrilege to disturb St.
Dingan, and then they wouldn't dare try it."
William closed and bolted the trapdoor, and they
went back slowly to the car. As they got farther away
from the Flaherty castle relief became the dominant
emotion, and their spirits began to rise. Whatever had
happened, they were no longer in a position of having
to calm down an irate Mr. Higgett, and to try to per-
suade him to go home.
Half-heartedly William opposed the plan to consult
Fr. Rooney, but as Belinda pointed out, there didn't
seem to be any alternative. Certainly William had
nothing positive to propose.
"They don't always do as their priest tells them,"
he said. "Look at dancing. "
"But that's different," said Belinda. "This is a
really religious thing. Faith and morals, and all that."
"Dancing has to do with morals," said William.
"That's why they are always trying to stop it."
"Only morals in a very restricted sense," said
Patricia. "It's the only amusement most of the young
people have. There's no wonder they think of England
as a sort of Promised Land."
"I think Ireland is marvellous as it is," said William.
"I'm glad I'm going to Cambridge, but I shall be just
as glad to come back to Ballydingan. As long as you're
still here," he added to Belinda.
"Then we simply have to get Fr. Rooney to put his
Fr. Rooney was a little surprised to see the three
of them on the presbytery doorstep. He invited them
in with a cordial smile, though his first remark caused
"And where's your fine beard now?" he asked
"Goodness!" exclaimed William. "How did you
know about it?"
"Putting two and two together," said Fr. Rooney.
"Frightening poor Miss Maconochie almost into the
Catholic Church, to say nothing of Colonel Wother-
spoon. I'm surprised at ye."
"We did it with the best intentions," Belinda told
him. "I'm sure you're like Daddy in wanting to keep
"That doesn't excuse trifling with the Faith," said
Fr. Rooney, though his eyes were twinkling. "And
haven't you an English proverb about the road to hell
being paved with the best intentions?"
"Good intentions," Patricia corrected him, "and
that is rather different, you must admit."
"Ah, well," said Fr. Rooney, "and so poor Mr.
Freeman is being driven away by the village's patron
saint. 'Tis a sad thing, surely."
"It's all these horrid journalists," said Belinda.
"They make a sensation out of anything, and it's all
for the sake of making a sensation. They don't care
about anything, really. St. Dingan doesn't mean a
thing to them."
"I don't care for the fellows at all," said Fr. Rooney.
"Their motives are certainly not of the best, or their
intentions, should I say?" He smiled at Patricia. "But
what are we going to do about them?"
"I suppose you've seen that they're getting a water-
diviner in, sir?" asked William. He glanced at the
girls. "We met him in Galway and I locked him up in
the old Flaherty keep at the end of Colonel Wother-
"And someone has let him out," Belinda finished for
"He's no business to come messing about here,"
"I don't see why we should have the horrible man
committing sacrilege in our church," said Belinda. She
was nearly in tears.
"Set your minds at rest," said Fr. Rooney. "He
won't find anything, and if he does it'll all be a cod, and
we'll laugh him out of the village."
"What do you mean?" asked Patricia. They were all
looking at him wide-eyed.
"St. Dingan was buried at Kildare," said Fr. Rooney.
"More shame on me I didn't know it from the start."
"Is that really true?" asked Belinda.
"Professor Murphy of Galway University, a poor,
queer fellow but a scholar, rang me up not much more
than an hour ago. Very indignant he was that we were
claiming to possess the bones of St. Dingan. It seems
he retired to Kildare, and was buried there in 494."
"How marvellous!" exclaimed Belinda. "Then we
needn't have bothered about the awful Mr. Higgett if
we'd only known. William will have to lie low for a day
or two, but I don't suppose he'll ever find out who
motored him from Galway." Belinda's eyes sparkled.
"I could kiss you," she said to Fr. Rooney.
"William won't have to go parading about in that
fine red beard," said Fr. Rooney.
"I hope you won't say anything to Uncle, sir," said
"I will not, of course," said Fr. Rooney. "He's just
after ringing me up to say his sciatica is cured, and as a
thank offering he's going to pay for the new Stations
we're putting up in the church. It would be uncharit-
able to interfere with such a good work." He smiled at
William. "The good Lord can use any instrument He
pleases, even a young man in a false beard."
st. dingan's bones did not even provide a nine days'
wonder, for the Sunday newspapers carried Professor
Murphy's telephoned message on an inside page — not
sensationally displayed because the message was a
damper on all sensation — and the Monday newspapers
carried a report of Fr. Rooney's sermon, in which he
categorically asserted that the bones of St. Dingan were
at Kildare, even though his non-corporeal part now
had perfect freedom of movement both in heaven and
earth. By eleven o'clock on the Monday morning all
the reporters, with the exception of Mr. Thompson,
had left Ballydingan.
Mr. Higgett had stayed the night in Galway, but
although he had discovered William's identity by
making a simple inquiry at the Great Southern, when
he heard that his erstwhile captor was the nephew and
heir of a peer he decided to let sleeping dogs lie, for
Mr. Higgett was old-fashioned enough to dearly love a
lord. When he rang up the London office of Lord
Rotherbrook's newspapers on the Sunday, they had
already received a copy of Professor Murphy's state-
ment which had been telephoned to the Irish Sunday
papers, and he was instructed to return to London.
Mrs. Shotter remained in Ballydingan until the
Tuesday. The reason was that she had heard from
Mrs. Primby all about Miss Fisher's occult powers, and
as Miss Fisher did not consider it proper to contact the
unseen world on a Sunday, but promised a session on
the Monday after supper, Mrs. Shotter stayed on to
witness a demonstration. Unfortunately the seance was
more than dominated by Mrs. Primby's aunt, who was
even more than usually incomprehensible, and Mrs.
Shotter herself was somewhat distrait. Although her
back was cured — she had not had a twinge since
falling over the tombstone — she had now started a
peculiar discomfort in her stomach. The cause might
just possibly be Mrs. Primby's cooking, but Mrs.
Shotter was not one to fly to so mundane an explana-
tion, and she was excited by the thought that perhaps
she was beginning a new ailment. It certainly helped
her to bear the vagaries of Mrs. Primby's disembodied
Mr. Thompson did not go back to the ascetic regime
which had furnished the motive for his visit to Mrs.
Primby's. He had decided to call it a working holiday,
and spent a happy day in the English bar, in Seamus
King's, in Tomas King's, in O'Rorke's, and Vaughan's,
and Connolly's, and after a somewhat jejune meal at
Mrs. Primby's (both the potatoes and the cabbage
boiled dry while Mrs. Primby gossiped happily with
Mrs. Shotter), having evaded the seance by asserting
that he had telephone calls to make of the utmost ur-
gency, he spent a happy evening in Egan's Hotel, and
even hummed an accompaniment to the Wild Colonial
Miss Maconochie paid a special visit to Galway, and
bought several manuals on Catholic faith and practice
at Kenny's bookshop in the High Street, but her con-
version was delayed. Reference to her diary of coming
events advised her that the fortieth anniversary of the
execution of Sir Roger Casement was approaching, and
she was occupied for several days, with her Thesaurus
and rhyming dictionary, composing an ode in honour of
that gallant and much maligned Anglo-Irish gentleman
who espoused the cause of Ireland when he had nothing
to gain, and everything, even his life, to lose.
Lord Roundstone's sciatica gave no signs of return-
ing. When next his old friend the Colonel dined with
him, the two of them finished a bottle of burgundy
between them, and passed the port at least three times.
"I thought you were forbidden port, Porky," said
"It's a most extraordinary thing, Mouser," said the
Colonel, "but my blood pressure is down to normal. I
was vetted only last week." He looked a little shame-
faced, as Englishmen so often do when giving voice to
something they consider sacred. "I'm sure it was that
fellow, St. Dingan." He looked even more embar-
rassed. "I wouldn't like anyone to know," he said,
"except you, Mouser. I sent Fr. Rooney a fiver anony-
mously. I'd have sent more only I thought he might
begin to wonder about it. And I'm going to give
William a good tip when he goes to Cambridge."
"William?" said Lord Roundstone. "You mean my
nephew, William? How does he come into it?"
"Oh, he doesn't," said the Colonel hurriedly. "I
mean I have to plan my expenses ahead, you know."
"You needn't bother your head about William,
Porky. He has a very good allowance from his father's
estate, quite apart from what I give him."
"Quite, quite," said the Colonel. "But I should like
to give him a tip all the same. You only go up to the
i 7 8
'Varsity once. And it's a sort of thank offering for the
peace of Ballydingan."
The Conneelly children still play in the dingle, but it
is no longer as secluded as it was. The weeds have been
removed by pious villagers, and a stone coping borders
the spring. The water is as popular as that in the gal-
vanized container which stands in the porch of St.
Joseph's. Moira Rorke swears a draught of it cured her
earache, and Mrs. Vaughan is emphatic that it is an
infallible panacea for the wind.
Brendan Burke, who is being coached by Fr. O'Toole
so that he can catch up with his reading and writing,
often visits the well, in which he feels a proprietorial
interest as great as that of the Conneelly children. He
was up there only the other day, contemplating the now
pellucid little stream, and thinking the long, long
thoughts of youth. Suddenly his feelings bubbled up
like the waters which had refreshed St. Dingan in his
oratory so many years before.
" well," he said. And in heaven, where the
secrets of all hearts are disclosed, it was received as a
prayer of thanksgiving.
St. Dingan's bones, main
3 lEta D3S71 o^m